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Record Border Encounters and Polls

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November 22, 2022

A record 2.2 million unauthorized foreigners were encountered by Border Patrol agents just inside the US border with Mexico in FY22. Another 172,500 were detected at ports of entry, bringing total encounters to 2.4 million, up 37 percent from 1.7 million encounters in FY21.

Mexicans and Central Americans were 57 percent of those encountered. The number of Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans who were encountered, over 571,000, exceeded the number encountered from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

A record 2.4 million foreigners were encountered in FY22

Countries. The number of Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans encountered rose in in part because citizens of these countries cannot be deported to their countries of origin. Over 175,000 Cubans were encountered in FY22, more than the 125,000 who arrived during the Mariel boatlift of 1980.

Many migrants cross the Mexico-US border, turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents, and apply for asylum

Over 187,000 Venezuelans were apprehended in FY22, including 33,000 in September 2022, prompting the Biden Administration to change policies toward Venezuelans who seek asylum in the US by returning them to Mexico under Title 42. In exchange, the US offered to admit 24,000 Venezuelans who have US sponsors with two-year humanitarian parole visas.

The return-to-Mexico policy led to a sharp drop in the number of Venezuelans encountered at the Mexico-US border in October 2022. Almost seven million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, and over 150,000 entered the US in 2022.

The number of Venezuelans, Cubans, and Nicaraguans rose steadily throughout FY22

Over 60 percent of the migrant encounters with Border Patrol agents were in four of the nine CBP sectors, including three in Texas, Del Rio, Rio Grande Valley, and El Paso.

Almost 60 percent of FY22 encounters were in Texas

Title 42. Over a million of the foreigners who were encountered in FY22 just inside US borders were returned to Mexico under Title 42, a public health measure invoked in March 2020 to prevent foreigners from spreading covid. Many of the other foreigners encountered were allowed into the US to pursue asylum claims that can last several years because of the backlog of two million cases in immigration courts.

Title 42 removals often result in re-entries because there is no penalty for unauthorized re-entry. Between 2014 and 2019, Border Patrol agents reported an average recidivism rate of 14 percent, meaning that a seventh of those encountered had been arrested at least once before during the previous 12 months. As more migrants were returned to Mexico under Title 42, the recidivism rate rose to 19 percent in September 2022, when 228,000 foreigners were encountered.

Mexicans and Northern Triangle nationals were usually returned under Title 42

Share of Migrant Encounters Subject to Title 42 and Title 8 Proceedings, by Country of Nationality, FY 2002
Country Title 42 Title 8
Mexico 86% 14%
Guatemala 67% 33%
Honduras 63% 37%
El Salvador 58% 42%
Haiti 23% 77%
Brazil 9% 91%
Colombia 9% 91%
Nicaragua 3% 97%
Cuba 2% 98%
Venezuela 0% 100%
Total 45% 55%

Unauthorized foreigners can also be removed from the US under Title 8. A foreigner who enters the US illegally after a Title 8 removal can face criminal prosecution for illegal re-entry or be barred from returning legally. Most Mexicans and Central Americans are processed under Title 42, while most over nationalities are processed under Title 8.

40% of FY22 border encounters involved non-Mexicans and non-Central Americans

The four leading non-traditional countries in FY22 were Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua

Polls. The Pew Research Center released the results of an August 2022 poll that found 44 percent of Americans though it was very important to increase security on the Mexico-US border. Combining those who said border security was very and somewhat important means that 73 percent of respondents want more border security, 73 percent support accepting refugees who are fleeing violence and war, and 72 percent support giving unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children the opportunity to settle in the US.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, created by President Obama in 2012, provides renewable work and residence visas to unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before age 16, graduated from high school, and were under the age of 31 in 2021. These unauthorized youth arrivals are sometimes called Dreamers.

Over 70% of Americans support more border security and DACA

% who say each is a ____ important goal for U.S. immigration policy
  Very Somewhat Not too Not at all
Increase security along U.S.-Mexido border 44% 29% 19% 7%
Allow those who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here 36% 36% 17% 10%
Increase deportations of immigrants here illegally 29% 28% 28% 14%
Taking in civilian refugees trying to escape violence and war 28% 45% 19% 8%
Establish a way for immigrants here illegally to stay legally 25% 35% 22% 17%
Make it easier to sponsor family members to immigrate to the U.S. 25% 42% 23% 9%

Between 60 percent and 70 percent of poll respondents support increasing deportations of unauthorized foreigners, creating a path for unauthorized foreigners to remain in the US legally, and making it easier to sponsor family members for immigrant visas.

There were significant differences between Democrats and Republicans on immigration. Over 80 percent of Democrats support DACA, a path to legal status for other unauthorized foreigners, and accepting more refugees, while 80 percent of Republicans support increased border security and more deportations.

Democrats and Republicans differ on how to deal with unauthorized migration

% who say each is a very/somewhat important goal for U.S. immigration policy
  Rep/Lean Rep Dem/Lean Dem
Very Somewhat Very Somewhat
Increase deportations of immigrants here illegally 49% 30% 12% 26%
Increase security along U.S.-Mexico border 72% 20% 22% 37$
Takin in civilian refugees trying to escape violence and war 13% 45% 41% 44%
Make it easier to sponsor family members to immigrate to the U.S. 14% 38% 34% 46%
Allow those who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here 16% 38% 54% 34%
Establish a way for immigrants here illegally to stay legally 10% 26% 38% 42%

When asked whether they were conservative or liberal Democrats or Republicans, liberal Democrats were most likely to support a path to legalization for unauthorized foreigners, while fewer than a third of conservative Republicans supported legalization. Similarly, only a quarter of liberal Democrats support more deportations, compared with 85 percent of conservative Republicans. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans support more border security.

Most Democrats and Republicans support more border security

% who say each is a very/somewhat important goal for U.S. immigration policy
  Increase security along U.S.-Mexico border Establish a way for immigrants here illegally to stay legally Increase deportations of immigrants here illegally
  Very Somewhat Very Somewhat Very Somewhat
Total 44% 29% 25% 35% 29% 28%
Rep/Lean Rep 72% 20% 10% 26% 49% 30%
Conserv 82% 13% - 20% 58% 27%
Mod/Lib 54% 30% 14% 37% 34% 34%
Dem/Lean Dem 22% 37% 38% 42% 12% 26%
Conserv/Mod 30% 41% 32% 43% 16% 34%
Liberal 11% 33% 44% 41% - 18%

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has been asking Americans for over two decades whether a large number of immigrants and refugees is a critical threat to the US. The share of all Americans who see large-scale immigration as a threat dropped from over half in the early 2000s to a third today. However, partisan differences widened, so that two-thirds of Republicans consider large-scale immigration a critical threat to the US, compared with a fifth of Democrats.

Differences between Democrats and Republicans on immigration have widened

Below is a list of possible threats to the vital interest of the United States in the next 10 years. For eadh one, please select whether you see this as a critical threat, an important but not critical threat, or not an important threat at all: Large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the US.

% critcal threat
Year Overall Republican Democrat Independent
1998 55 56 58 51
2002 60 58 62 58
2004 52 62 49 49
2006 51 63 46 46
2008 51 63 46 46
2010 51 62 41 51
2012 40 55 30 40
2014 39 55 21 39
2015 44 63 29 44
2016 43 67 27 43
2017 37 62 21 37
2018 39 66 20 39
2019 43 78 19 43
2020 32 61 13 32
Aug. 2021 42 74 22 42
Mar. 2022 34 68 12 34
2022 39 70 18 37

When asked whether legal immigration should be kept at present levels, increased, or decreased, over 40 percent of Americans over the past decade prefer to keep legal immigration at present levels, compared with almost 30 percent who want to increase immigration and 30 percent who want to decrease legal immigration.

40% of Americans want to keep legal immigration at current levels

Should legal immigration into the United States be kept at its present level, increased or decreased? (%)
Year Kept at present level Increased Decreased
2002 28 15 55
2004 31 11 54
2006 39 13 46
2008 39 15 46
2010 40 14 42
2012 42 19 37
2016 41 18 39
2019 43 27 29
2020 44 28 27
2022 43 28 28

There are wide partisan differences on how to deal with unauthorized foreigners in the US. About 40 percent of respondents would allow them to apply for US citizenship, a quarter would support a path to citizenship after more time in the US and the payment of penalties, and almost a quarter favor deporting unauthorized foreigners. The partisan differences are stark, with most Democrats supporting immediate citizenship or a path to citizenship, while half of Republicans would not allow unauthorized foreigners to become US citizens.

Democrats and Republicans differ on how to deal with unauthorized foreigners

When it comes to immigration, which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the US? (%)
  Overall Republican Democrat Independent
They should be allowed to stay in their jobs and to apply for US citizenship 41 26 54 42
They should be allowed to stay in their jobs and to eventually apply for US citizenship only if they pay a penalty and wait a number of years 24 23 25 23
They should be allowed to stay in their jobs with work permits, but not apply for US citizenship 12 14 11 12
They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the US 22 36 10 21

References

Kafura, Craig. 2022. Democrats and Republicans Split over Immigration Levels. Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Oliphant, J Baxter and Andy Cerda. 2022. Republicans and Democrats have different top priorities for U.S. immigration policy. Pew Research Center.

Ruiz, Soto, Ariel. 2022. Record-Breaking Migrant Encounters at the U.S.-Mexico Border Overlook the Bigger Story. MPI.


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