Biden’s Border Encounters of a Most Superficial Kind

Recent news reports on border “encounters” beg a crucial question: What actually happens to encountered migrants?

Superficially, more encounters suggest better border enforcement. With sharply higher encounters, the Biden administration must be doing a bang-up job, right?

Not so fast. A deeper look indicates that rising numbers of illegal aliens are being waved into the U.S. while deportations are in sharp decline.

As Pew Research notes, “Migrant encounters refer to two distinct types of events:”

  • Apprehensions, in which migrants are taken into custody in the U.S. to await adjudication, including release.
  • Expulsions, in which migrants are immediately expelled to their home country or last country of transit without being held in U.S. custody. 

Though U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is not fully transparent (by design) in publicly parsing these categories, Pew dug for answers last summer and found that expulsions had become less common while apprehensions increased.

In July, 47 percent of encounters resulted in expulsion, down from 83 percent in January, when Biden took office. During the same period, the share of encounters that ended with apprehensions rose from 17 percent to 53 percent.

The shift away from expulsions is also reflected in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. ICE figures reveal a massive drop in deportations over the past three years.

  • FY ’21: 55,590 deportations
  • FY ’20: 185,884 deportations
  • FY ’19: 267,258 deportations

These trends should concern anyone who cares about border security. So, beware of facile claims and sensational headlines touting border encounters; the true story goes deeper, and is much more disturbing.

As FAIR observed last week: “The administration has dismantled the nation’s immigration and border apparatus and has shown no intention of ever restoring it.”

About Author


Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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