Is there a border crisis? According to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, there isn’t — but the illegal crossing numbers indicate that there is.

Illegal border crossings have reached a 20-year high. In the four months before Biden took office, illegal crossings averaged 70,000 a month. The number rose to 97,640 in February, the first full month of Biden’s presidency; to 169,204 in March; and to 173,686 in April; and it was 172,011 in May.


Mayorkas claims that the numbers are misleading because they include the recidivists who make more than one illegal crossing.

Recidivism is becoming a major problem. Approximately 38 percent of the illegal crossers arrested in May had tried to cross at least one other time in the past year. That’s up from an average one-year recidivism rate of 15 percent between 2014 and 2019.

But the surge in recidivism is not a mitigating factor. It is part of the crisis.

It is happening because undocumented migrants can make as many illegal crossings as they want without fear of consequences. Illegal entry is a crime, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona didn’t prosecute any illegal crossers in May.

This encourages illegal crossers to keep trying until they succeed. Border security measures are meaningless when the people who are deported today can come back tomorrow.

And once they have succeeded in reaching the interior of the country, they are home free. It is extremely unlikely that they will be put in removal proceedings unless they are convicted of a serious crime in the United States.

Biden replaced the removal grounds that Congress passed with three priority categories. Enforcement actions are limited to deportable aliens who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. Exceptions are possible, but they require preapproval from senior supervisors.

According to Ronald Vitiello, who was ICE’s acting director in 2018 and 2019, “The odds of being arrested just for being in the country illegally were always extremely low, and now they’ve basically ruled it out by policy.”

Most registered voters know there is a crisis

A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll that was taken between June 15-17, 2021, found that 74 percent of the registered voters polled think the surge in illegal border crossings is a crisis that must be addressed immediately.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at