Over 256,000 Illegal Immigrants in February, Highest for the Month in History

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(Bethany Blankley, The Center Square) – The number of illegal immigrants has increased significantly since Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas implemented a range of policies he said were designed to reduce “irregular migration” and create a “legal pathway” for foreign nationals to come to the U.S.

February of this year broke a record of 256,094 total illegal border crossings nationwide, the highest for the month in U.S. history.

It also represents a 19% increase from nationwide encounters overall and a 38% increase in encounters at ports of entry from February 2023.

Last month’s nationwide encounters are up from 213,911 in Februar2023, 190,578 in February 2022 and 115,559 in 2021.

February’s numbers also are an increase from January 2024’s nationwide record-breaking encounters of 242,521.

This is after record numbers of illegal border crossers came through in the first quarter of fiscal 2024 both at the northern and southwest border, the highest for the quarter in U.S. history.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released February border-related data Friday,  stating there were 189,922 illegal border crossers apprehended at the southwest border. This includes illegal entries between ports of entry and those using the CBP One app.

This represents a 21% increase from February 2023’s southwest border encounters and a 7% increase from January 2024.

The CBP One mobile app, which Congress is investigating, “remains a key component of DHS’s efforts to incentivize noncitizens to use lawful, safe, humane, and orderly pathways,” CBP said. “Generally, noncitizens who cross between the ports of entry or who present themselves at a port of entry without making a CBP One™ appointment are subject to the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways rule. This rule presumes asylum ineligibility for those who fail to use lawful processes, with certain exceptions,” which DHS encourages illegal foreign nationals to use.

Noncitizens in central or northern Mexico “who lack documents sufficient for admission to the United States” are encouraged to use the app to schedule an appointment “and remain in place until presenting at a preferred port of entry for their appointment,” in order to reduce illegal entry between ports of entry, CBP says.

In February, CBP processed more than 42,100 foreign nationals who used the app arriving at ports of entry. The appointments accounted for 86% of noncitizens processed at ports of entry, “demonstrating that noncitizens will follow an orderly process when one is available,” CBP said.

Since the app scheduling function was launched in January 2023, through February 2024, more than 501,000 foreign nationals have scheduled appointments using the app to arrive at ports of entry. The majority using it who were processed into the country are Haitian, Mexican and Venezuelan, CBP says.

With February’s numbers, fiscal year to date, 1,487,195 foreign nationals have illegally entered the U.S. excluding gotaways.

“Gotaways” is the official term used by Border Patrol agents to describe foreign nationals who intentionally illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry and don’t return to Mexico or Canada. CBP doesn’t publicly report gotaway data. The Center Square first began reporting it to provide a more accurate picture of the number of illegal border crossers entering the U.S. every month under the current administration.

Gotaways don’t file asylum or other immigration-related claims but actively avoid being caught. They often run when they are pursued by Border Patrol agents or others in law enforcement, authorities told The Center Square. Many have criminal records; the majority are single, military age men.

According to Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens, more than 120,000 known gotaways were reported in the first quarter of fiscal 2024.

“The unknown is what is most concerning,” Owens said in a statement on social media. “Who? What? Why?” he asked, meaning Border Patrol agents have no idea who illegally entered, where they are, or what criminal intent they may have.

Referring to how many gotaways illegally entered, Owens told Fox News, “It’s in the hundreds of thousands and those are the numbers that really for us keep us up at night. … Because if you know that all you need to do is turn yourself in to the Border Patrol and go through the process, what possible reason would you have for wanting to evade capture and put yourself in danger, to cross through the desert or be in a stash house or lock yourself in the back of a tractor trailer? Could it be that those are the folks that probably have criminal intent?”

Including gotaways, the number of foreign nationals who have illegally entered the U.S. fiscal year to date is more than 1.6 million, the highest in U.S. history.

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