Border Crossings 3 Times Higher Under Biden Than Trump

The U.S. Border Patrol is reporting more than three times the number of encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border than it experienced under former President Donald Trump, punctuating what Republicans have defined as a "crisis" level situation at the southern border that has emerged under President Joe Biden's leadership.

Data from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) compiled by Newsweek show that the average number of encounters under Biden reached totals of roughly 189,000 per month, compared to an average of just under 51,000 per month during the Trump presidency.

The rate is so significant that Biden, in fewer than two years, has already wracked up over one million more illegal crossings than Trump did throughout his entire administration—including more than 2 million crossings in 2022 alone.

There are numerous reasons why border crossings are so high, but they aren't all Biden's fault.

Border Wall
A member of a group of more than 50 asylum seekers, mainly from South America, waits for US authorities to process them after crossing the US-Mexico border fence, as seen from Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on September 5, 2022. Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

Part of the cause has to do with the Trump administration's 2020 reforms to the country's immigration code under Title 42 of the U.S. health code, which allowed the administration to more quickly reject asylum-seeking migrants under the guise of protecting the public from diseases like COVID-19.

While this helped the administration expand beyond the existing avenues allowed under Title 8—where immigrants are detained and assessed before they are admitted into the country—the Trump administration inadvertently created a veritable catch-and-release system that allowed migrants to make multiple attempts to enter the U.S. from the southern border.

As of May 2022, approximately half of all single adults from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador expelled to Mexico under Title 42 were apprehended crossing the border a second time, according to research by the American Immigration Council—with one-third of all detainees counting at least two previous attempts at crossing the border.

Biden's own policies have only exacerbated the problem. As border crossing attempts spiked under the president, his efforts to lift Title 42 have been blocked by the courts, allowing the provision to continue to dominate modern immigration policy.

Meanwhile, Biden has signaled his support for new policies to streamline the intake process for laborers seeking employment or education opportunities, including easing hardline Trump-era restrictions on accessing benefits or applying for asylum. However, this has not corresponded with a sufficient increase in the availability of work visas, even as the administration has sought to increase the total number of seasonal workers receiving visas over the summer.

The fact this happened at the time the U.S. economy was booming may have played a part in the rise in immigrants arriving in the country. The number of U.S. job openings, an analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute found, almost directly correlates with the number of encounters at the southwestern border over the last several decades.

Exempting children from Title 42 has also led to sharp increases in unaccompanied children crossing the border, per data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University—while other data show a growing number of deportation cases being dismissed due to other processing issues.

With no clear vision of who gets deported and who doesn't, many try again. Entering the Biden administration, recidivism rates among migrants soared as many who were turned away from the border made additional attempts.

"Amidst this hodge-podge of policies, it is often unclear why one person is expelled and another is released, incentivizing more migrants to try their luck at crossing—sometimes repeatedly," a January analysis by the Migration Policy Institute concluded.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters last week the administration was taking a proactive role in reducing the influx of undocumented immigrants entering the country—including the establishment of joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers; the hiring of dedicated immigration judges so asylum seekers can have their cases heard faster; increases in funding for the Department of Homeland Security; and expanding access to additional work visas.

But she also defended the work that is currently being done, noting that more apprehensions also means more expulsions.

"Rebuilding the immigration system, especially one that was decimated under the previous administration, won't happen overnight," she told reporters. "We're not going to flip a switch and get that done."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment on the Border Patrol data.