Homeland Security nabbed 154,998 illegal immigrants coming across the southwestern border in February, or about the same as January, which officials said was further proof that their new carrot-and-stick approach is working.
The numbers are still among the worst months on record, but are slightly better than February 2022. And the reported captures are significantly better than most of last year, when authorities encountered more than 200,000 people each month from March through December.
Troy Miller, acting commissioner at Customs and Border Protection, said they’ve worked to siphon people who would previously have jumped the border into signing up for appointments to apply to come in a more regular manner — though still without legal status — using a new phone app.
“The app cuts out the smugglers and decreases migrant exploitation,” Mr. Miller said.
It also has shifted some of the chaos from the southern border to other regions, including the nation’s coasts and airports. Those areas recorded 44,215 encounters with illegal immigrants in February, up from about 31,000 a month at the end of fiscal year 2022.
Other troubling trends included an increase in vulnerable juveniles traveling without parents. CBP said it encountered 10,870, or 16% more than in January.
Border Patrol agents also recorded apprehending 16 more people whose names were flagged in the government’s terrorist watch list.
And CBP’s fentanyl seizures rose sharply, to about 2,300 pounds. It was just 1,400 pounds in January. Analysts generally believe that seizures are a yardstick for the total flow, so if more drugs are being caught, more are getting through.
On the plus side, the number of migrants traveling as families dropped 13% in February.
CBP officials said the better border numbers are chiefly a result of a policy President Biden announced in early January to allow migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti to pre-apply for entry under the Homeland Security secretary’s power of “parole.”
That doesn’t grant legal status, but does allow someone to enter for a set period of time.
Mr. Biden said the program was intended to reward people who applied and waited for their turn, while punishing migrants from the four countries who showed up and tried to jump the border without going through a border crossing.
Border Patrol agents were catching more than 1,200 people a day from those nations in early January. As of late February, it had dropped to just 46.