McALLEN, Texas—The sheer number of illegal border-crossers that U.S. Border Patrol agents are apprehending on a daily basis is overwhelming in itself, but the type of population makes it something never seen before, according to Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“I would argue that it’s the biggest surge that we’ve ever seen in the history of the Border Patrol,” Judd said during a roundtable with Republican members of Congress, Texas landowners, and law enforcement on April 7.
During the month of March, Border Patrol apprehended 172,000 illegal aliens, according to statistics released on April 8 by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). An additional 1,000 per day are evading capture. In February, border agents apprehended 101,000 people.
Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said the increase “is not new.”
“Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020, and our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year,” he said.
However, Judd said, “this surge is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Border Patrol apprehended up to 1.5 million illegal aliens per year.
“Even though we were making 1.5 million arrests, we were actually dealing with about 400,000 to 500,000 individual people—we were just arresting the same people over and over again,” Judd said. Most were single males from Mexico, who were easy to turn back across the border within a couple of hours.
“Today … if we make 1.2 million arrests, we’re actually dealing with about 800,000 to 900,000 different people.”
The addition of so many unaccompanied minors (18,600 in March) and family units (comprising almost 53,000 individuals in March) on top of single adults (96,600 in March) is overwhelming, Judd said.
Family units and unaccompanied minors require a huge amount of resources, including housing, food, transport, and health care while being processed and subsequently transferred or released.
Additionally, most of the family members and unaccompanied minors end up staying in the United States, regardless of whether they have a meritorious asylum claim.
“You could cross the border illegally one day and be in Virginia the very next day,” Judd said.
“I personally have apprehended groups from China, from Bangladesh, from Russia, from Poland, from Brazil. And these criminal organizations are allowed to go into these countries, and they’re allowed to advertise their services and make billions of dollars off of human misery. And it’s based upon our policies.
“That’s wrong. That is inhumane.”
The Biden administration has drawn criticism for quickly undoing Trump-era policies—which had sharply reduced the flow of illegal immigration—and creating the current crisis.
On March 24, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to head up the border crisis response. However, she has yet to visit the border, saying that her focus is instead on providing more assistance to Central American countries.
Judd said the only way to stem the flow is to detain people while their immigration case is being adjudicated, rather than incentivizing illegal immigration through “catch-and-release.”
He said the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the Remain in Mexico program, were working to that end.
“I would set up courts immediately on the border to hold these people in custody pending the adjudication of their asylum claim. If we did that, we would address this issue and we would stop the fraudulent asylum claims almost immediately,” Judd said.
Currently, only about 10 percent of Central Americans who claim asylum are granted relief after their case is heard. Many don’t show up for their hearings or apply for asylum once they are released into the country.