How many “irregular” crossings at the Mexican border that create the crisis?

Here is concise description of border crossings which constitute the current border crisis. This is important to digest.

There are 25 official ports of entry (POE) on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Some are used only for vehicles, trains, pipelines or electrical transmission. A few, such as El Paso TX and San Ysidro (CA) are heavily used by people walking across. The great majority of border crossings have been “irregular,” that is, between the POEs.

The Migration Policy Institute, in a January 2024 report on border control writes that in FY 2021 – 2023, 700,000 persons were recorded arriving at POEs, 5.9 million were processed between the POEs, and 1.7 million were estimated to have crossed undetected (‘gotaways”). This is an astounding  and questionable number of undetected persons. The MPI’s source is a Congressional Homeland Security committee. I suspect that the committee relied on old rule of thumb ratios between recognized and surreptitious crossings (such as about 30%). Such an old ratio is likely invalid in years in which massive waves of migrants cross the border with an explicit goal of being apprehended and claim asylum.

The MPI writes:

Of the 6.6 million migrant encounters recorded along the U.S.-Mexico border between FY 2021 and FY 2023, 5.9 million (90 percent) were processed by the U.S. Border Patrol between Ports of Entry (POEs). That is an average of nearly 2 million encounters each fiscal year since FY 2021 with migrants of increasingly different nationalities and characteristics.  The sustained volume and quickly changing composition of border arrivals have posed significant operational and logistical challenges for the Border Patrol and other agencies with a role in processing arriving migrants.

[The great majority—5.9 million – are “give ups.”]

How migrants arrive irregularly between POEs has changed significantly. Migrants who learn they are likely to be processed quickly and released from Border Patrol custody, as is the case with Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians, tend to seek out and surrender to U.S. authorities soon after crossing into U.S. territory. These encounters, commonly referred to by Border Patrol agents as “give-ups,” reflect migrants’ intention to seek asylum once in the United States, often with the misguided perception that they will qualify for protection despite CLP restrictions. Mexicans and Central Americans, who are often aware that they may be detained and removed, are more likely to attempt to evade detection. Since FY 2021, an estimated 1.7 million migrants [i.e. were detected but not encountered by the Border Patrol (also known as“gotaways”).

[Here is what happens quickly to the encountered irregulars:]

The Border Patrol generally has 72 hours to process migrants before transferring custody to other agencies, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service USCIS). Agents attempt to process and transfer custody of unaccompanied children within 24 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Processing other vulnerable populations (e.g., families with children or migrants who are sick may take longer. Ultimately, how long migrants spend in Border Patrol detention for processing depends not only on the agency’s internal capacity but also on the capacity of USCIS to conduct credible fear interviews for migrants who express the intent to seek asylum after being placed in removal proceedings and that of ICE to coordinate removal hearings and carry out removals.

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