The Border Patrol had 2,206,436 encounters with illegal crossers at the Southwest border in fiscal 2022, the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960, which is when the government began tracking illegal crossings. These statistics do not include “gotaways” or migrants who succeed in crossing without being detected.

According to DHS’s Inspector General, the Border Patrol is only denying entry to a very small percentage of the illegal crossers it does not expel under Title 42. The ones who are not expelled are released into the country after a 72-hour screening at overcrowded holding facilities.

Nevertheless, DHS claims that the objective of its border security measures is to ensure the safety and security of our borders while managing a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.

How can DHS ensure the safety and security of the border if it is admitting almost all of the illegal crossers who are not expelled under Title 42 knowing little, if anything, about them or their intentions?

Moreover, safety and security aren’t the only considerations. The sheer number of illegal crossers has overwhelmed our immigration system and resulted in serious unintended consequences.

1. Migrant deaths. Migrants often face treacherous terrain when making an illegal border crossing, including oppressive desert heat and dangerous waters. When illegal crossings go up, more migrants are exposed to these dangers, and more deaths occur.

The Border Patrol reported a record 856 migrant deaths in fiscal 2022, and 557 in fiscal 2021. But according to GAO, the Border Patrol does not collect and record all available information on migrant deaths.

No one knows how many migrant deaths have not been discovered.

2. Unaccompanied children. During the first nine years of the Office of Refugee Settlement’s (ORR) Unaccompanied Children Program, fewer than 8,000 children were referred to ORR annually. That number skyrocketed to 122,731 in fiscal 2021. This resulted in having to detain unaccompanied children at overcrowded Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding centers. To get them out of these centers as quickly as possible, ORR opened emergency intake sites (EIS) to supplement existing shelters.

Members of Congress, child welfare advocates, and staff at ORR facilities raised concerns about inadequate case management at the Fort Bliss EIS. Consequently, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at HHS conducted an investigation of conditions at that facility.


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.