Varying border apprehension interpretations for latest numbers

The number of migrants encountered at the border was released Tuesday for the first month of the fiscal year, but the interpretation of those figures varies depending on the media statements offered by officials from Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley.

Overall, 164,303 encounters were reported along the Southwest border in October, the first month of the fiscal year.

Agency officials from headquarters and those stationed in the Valley approached the number using different frames of reference.

“October marks the third straight month of declining unauthorized migrant encounters along the Southwest border,” a CBP spokesperson wrote in their news release. They focused on comparing the numbers to the previous month.

“In total, there were 164,303 encounters along the Southwest border, a 14% decrease compared to September,” CBP added.

Data from the CBP website demonstrates the decline, but it also shows an increase when compared to the previous year, the focus of Border Patrol agents in the Valley.

“RGV agents made 45,324 migrant encounters in October, a 157% increase compared to the same time frame last year,” the news release from the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol office read. “This flow continues to stay consistent and is evident by the latest apprehension of two large groups of migrants that illegally entered the United States in the Rio Grande Valley within the past week.”

Officials from the Valley agreed that the numbers had decreased, but said “Border Patrol Agents in the RGV continue to apprehend migrants at record levels.”

Agents in the Valley struggled to keep up with the demand on resources to efficiently process and shelter migrants, especially when there was a significant number of families and children crossing into the U.S. without their parents over the last fiscal year, internal emails acquired by The Monitor showed.

A decline in those demographics, children without their parents and families, were also registered in October.

Most of the people encountered at the border are single adults; they accounted for two-thirds of the total crossings last month.

CBP officials noted the difference in the number of apprehensions made compared to the number of people who actually crossed. While there were 164,303 crossings in October, they were made by a total of 117,260 people and some who crossed more than once.

“Of those, 29% involved individuals who had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months, compared to an average one-year re-encounter rate of 14% for FY 2014-2019,” CBP officials stated.

The number of attempts made by a single person has increased after the use of a policy that returns migrants seeking asylum back to Mexico went into effect in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. It’s known as Title 42.

The U.S. has struggled to maintain constant use of the practice which relies heavily on Mexico’s consent to accept migrants back into their country, an inconsistent agreement that varies depending on time and Mexican border state.

Last month, about 57% of those who crossed into the U.S. were returned to Mexico under the practice.

Policies may change at the border, particularly in Brownsville and Laredo ports of entry, when the administration reimplements the Migrant Protection Protocols, which like Title 42, will expel asylum seekers back to Mexico, but it will allow them to register their case for asylum in the U.S.

The policy was said to start in mid-November, but as of Tuesday, the administration said its delay was, in part, due to negotiations with Mexico.

“The U.S. government has now “initiated the relevant contracts and largely finished its internal planning for the court-ordered re-implementation of MPP,”” the court filing read. It added, “DHS is ready to reimplement MPP shortly after the Government of Mexico makes an independent decision to accept the return of individuals that the Department seeks to enroll in the program.”