More Than 4,000 Illegal Immigrant ‘Gotaways’ Since Title 42 Ended: Border Patrol Chief

More Than 4,000 Illegal Immigrant ‘Gotaways’ Since Title 42 Ended: Border Patrol Chief
Illegal immigrants wait for a bus to take them to a processing center after turning themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol officials in Fronton, Texas, on May 12, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

United States Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz has reported that approximately 4,316 illegal immigrants crossed the U.S. southern border and evaded Border Patrol authorities in the first three days after Title 42 expired on May 11.

On Monday morning, Ortiz tweeted a summary of the Border Patrol’s enforcement activity in the first 72 hours after the end of Title 42—a pandemic-era authority that allowed border officials to turn away and expel migrants from the United States for public health reasons.

Ruiz reported that Border Patrol agents apprehended 14,752 illegal immigrants, while estimating that another 4,316 got away over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Among those apprehended, Border Patrol agents identified five sex offenders and a wanted felon, while seizing four pounds of marijuana, one pound of cocaine, two firearms, and $58,758. The Border Patrol chief reported that three of his agents were also assaulted in that 72-hour period.

“A busy weekend for our workforce! Thank you!” Ruiz tweeted.

Before and After Title 42

In the fiscal year 2022, while Title 42 was still in effect, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded more than 600,000 gotaways—the agency’s official term for “a person who is not turned back or apprehended after making an illegal entry” into the United States. This reported number of gotaways over the course of 2022 amounted to an average of 1,644 gotaways per day—compared to an average of 1,439 gotaways in the first three days after Title 42 ended.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the number of migrants encountered at the southern border over the last three days fell by about 50 percent compared to the days leading up to the end of Title 42.

“It’s still too early to draw firm conclusions. We are closely watching what’s happening,” said Blas Nunez-Neto, the DHS assistant secretary for border and immigration policy on Monday. “We are confident that the plan that we have developed across the U.S. government to address these flows will work over time.”

DHS officials have insisted they have been preparing for months for Title 42 to end, and have allotted resources to address a potential surge in cross-border traffic. Under Title 42, border officials could quickly expel illegal border crossers, though those expulsions did not carry consequences for those who illegally entered the country.

President Joe Biden’s administration made some policy changes ahead of the anticipated surge of asylum seekers and illegal border crossers.

Prior to the end of Title 42, the administration implemented a rule (pdf) that essentially revived a Trump-era travel policy disqualifying people from applying for asylum in the United States if they didn’t first seek protection in countries they passed through on their way to the United States. The Biden administration has also developed a parole program that allows immigrants to enter and work in the United States for up to two years. The Biden era rules state that those who still ignore the border and illegally cross will be returned and disqualified from future entry under the parole program.

Many migrants, worried about tougher enforcement measures, began arriving at the border before Title 42 expired.

Republicans Skeptical of Border Claims

While Biden administration officials reported a comparative drop in migrant encounters at the border, several Republican officials have expressed skepticism that the situation there is under control.

In a Sunday interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) said he had heard assertions from border officials, local mayors, and members of the media saying the current border situation is “not that bad.”

“So, on Friday, I visited El Paso and went to the Central Processing Center. And you’re seeing these videos, and this is what ‘not that bad’ looks like,” Gonzales said. “There’re over 6,000 people that are in custody in this particular facility. It’s meant to house 1,000 people, it’s housing over 3,000. In one of these rooms … the max capacity is 90 people, there [were] over 400 in here, that’s a 450 percent capacity. In another room meant to house 120 people, there [were] over 700 people in there.

“We can’t allow ‘not that bad’ to be the normal,” Gonzales added.

In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “is lying” when he claims the border is secure. Graham also said the Biden administration has done “nothing substantially” to address the traffic at the U.S. southern border.

Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed legislation to resume border wall construction and increase the number of Border Patrol agents at the border. The legislation also applies more strict standards to the asylum process by mandating that asylum seekers enter the United States legally, pay a $50 fee, and meet more stringent standards to demonstrate they have a legitimate need for asylum.

The bill, which passed without any Democrat support in the House, faces tougher odds of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate, let alone gaining Biden’s signature.

“My Republican colleagues are trying to take us back to the failed, illegal, and immoral policies of the Trump administration,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) of the Republican immigration bill during a floor debate last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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