The chaos at the southern border grew in August, according to new numbers the Department of Homeland Security released Monday that showed record levels of fentanyl and illegal immigrants being smuggled into the U.S.
The fentanyl numbers were particularly troubling, setting yet another monthly record and topping July, which was already the worst month by far.
And Customs and Border Protection said it nabbed 203,597 people at the border last month and has now encountered more than 2 million illegal immigrants in fiscal 2022, which still has a month to go.
It’s the sixth straight month that encounters topped 200,000.
The numbers come just days after Vice President Kamala Harris insisted the border is “secure.” That declaration prompted Texas to dump busloads of migrants off outside her official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington.
The busing strategy has placed a new focus on the surge of illegal immigrants in the Biden administration, which has surpassed all previous records. Biden officials had hoped things were cooling down over the summer.
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CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus blamed rough conditions in Latin American countries for chasing people from home and toward the U.S.
“Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the southwest U.S. border,” he said.
He said migrants from more traditional sending nations such as Mexico and parts of Central America declined in August, and he said that was a sign of better border-security efforts between the U.S. and those countries.
He also said the U.S. will expel or remove more illegal immigrants at the border than any previous year.
What he didn’t mention is that the U.S. will also catch and release more than ever before.
CBP data showed only about 90,000 — less than half — were expelled under the Title 42 pandemic border shutdown policy or subject to speedy deportation. About 63,000 were caught and released by CBP, while about 24,000 were sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where most were expected to be released. Still, others were sent to the U.S. Marshals Service or state and local authorities who had claims on them.
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The rise in people is a challenge to Mr. Magnus, who a month ago had taken a victory lap as the July numbers showed a slight dip.
August, though, saw more than 55,000 people from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua stream into the U.S., fueling the 203,597 total illegal immigrant encounters, up from 200,195 in July.
Republicans pinned blame directly on the Biden administration’s changes to the border-security policy.
“Because of Biden and Democrats’ dereliction of duty and open border policies, gangs are thriving, drugs are pouring into our neighborhoods, and our communities are less safe,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “This November, Biden’s border crisis will be top of mind as voters worry about the safety and security of loved ones.”
On the drug front, fentanyl seizures were up 6% in August while heroin and methamphetamine seizures were down 10% and 44%, respectively. Cocaine seizures were up 193%, becoming the second-highest month in CBP’s four-year spreadsheet.
Higher seizure numbers, counterintuitively, are considered a bad thing. Analysts say the more that’s being caught, the more that’s getting through.
That’s also generally true for migrants being smuggled, with estimates of 55,000 “gotaways” each month to go along with the 200,000 or so who were encountered.
And it wasn’t just the southern border.
CBP recorded more than 15,000 encounters with illegal border crossers at the boundary with Canada, up from roughly 13,000 in July, and more than three times the level of last August.
This fiscal year CBP has recorded more than 96,000 encounters at the northern border, compared to roughly 27,000 in all of fiscal 2021.