Fact check: Post misrepresents U.S.-Mexico border apprehensions under Trump, Biden

The claim: 108,000 immigrants have illegally entered the US so far in 2021

The U.S.-Mexico border has seen an influx of immigrants in recent months. The surge is in part influenced by the coronavirus pandemic and political instability. 

The Biden administration has faced criticism regarding the influx, with top Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California blaming President Joe Biden’s immigration policies for the surge. 

In an interview with ABC News on March 16, Biden said “don’t come” to the border. And in his first press conference since taking office, Biden addressed the surge but added that an influx of immigration in the cooler months happens every year.

One Facebook post said “Sleepy Joe now saying he inherited ‘a mess’ at the border. Fact: 9,000 illegals all of 2020. So far in 2021, 108,000 entered U.S.”

USA TODAY has reached out to the user for comment.

Fact check: Texas’ ‘Operation Lone Star’ isn’t finishing border wall construction

Post inaccurately reports border apprehensions

Contrary to what the post says, Biden has not claimed to have inherited a “huge mess” at the border.

However, prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have made similar comments. Schumer said, “Let me just say this: Joe Biden inherited a huge mess on immigration, and it’s not going to be cleaned up in a month,” on a March 11 episode of “The View.” 

The Facebook post is not specific in its language about illegal border crossings and does not clarify what the 9,000 or 108,000 figures represent.

The claim about 108,000 immigrants entering the U.S. this year may have come from a press conference where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, “In all of last year, in the Rio Grande Valley Sector there were about 90,000 apprehensions. Just this year there have been 108,000 apprehensions there.”

The post says generally in 2021, “108,000 entered the US,” but Abbott spoke of only one sector along the U.S.-Mexico border. And it is possible the 9,000 figure in the post meant to say 90,000 for 2020, as Abbott did.

The Rio Grande Valley Sector covers more than 34,000 square miles of southeast Texas. In 2020, Border Patrol apprehended 90,000 individuals in the sector compared to more than 100,000 so far in 2021. 

Border encounters are categorized by enforcement actions: either a Title 42 expulsion or Title 8 apprehension, the latter being when migrants are taken into custody. 

Title 42, invoked by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020, is a federal public health law that allows border officials to expel migrants based on the concern that their entry could further spread the coronavirus. 

Border Patrol data shows there have been 381,636 enforcement encounters at the Southwest border in the 2021 fiscal year, which began in October. In January and February — Biden was president much of that period — there were 172,286 encounters.

In the 2021 fiscal year, there have been 64,046 apprehensions and 317,590 Title 42 expulsions.

By comparison, in the 2020 fiscal year, which accounts for October 2019 through September 2020, there were 400,651 encounters at the Southwest border, with 203,608 apprehensions and 197,043 Title 42 expulsions.

On March 16, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas released a statement regarding the situation at the Southwest border, noting that various factors are influencing the surge of migrants. 

“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” the statement reads. “We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children.”

In the statement, Mayorkas said the surge at the border is not a new trend. 

“We have experienced migration surges before — in 2019, 2014, and before then as well. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing.”

Our ruling: False

The claim in the post has been rated FALSE. First, President Joe Biden did not say he has “inherited ‘a mess'” at the border. In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 400,651 encounters at the Southwest border. So far in the 2021 fiscal year, which started in October, there have been 381,636 encounters at the Southwest border. In the months when Biden was president, there have been 172,286 encounters. There were significantly more border encounters in both years than the post claims. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • USA TODAY, March 18, “Thousands of migrant children are trying to enter the US, renewing a fight in Washington. What’s going on at the Mexico border?”
  • USA TODAY, March 15, “As Biden faces ongoing surge of migrant children, Republicans criticize White House for border crisis”
  • ABC News, March 16, “Biden tells migrants ‘don’t come over’ in ABC News exclusive interview”
  • USA TODAY, March 25, “President Biden holds first solo press conference (LIVE) | USA TODAY”
  • The View, March 11, “Chuck Schumer Discusses COVID-19 Relief Package and Biden’s Border Policy | The View”
  • The Dallas Morning News, March 11, “As Abbott hits Biden for releasing migrants with COVID, White House asks why Texas rejects funds to test them”
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Rio Grande Valley Sector Texas”
  • KHOU 11 News, March 10, “Gov. Abbott looks to strengthen Texas border”
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Nationwide Enforcement Encounters: Title 8 Enforcement Actions and Title 42 Expulsions 2021”
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Land Border Encounters”
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Border Migration FY 2020”
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “FY 2020 Nationwide Enforcement Encounters: Title 8 Enforcement Actions and Title 42 Expulsions”
  • Homeland Security, March 16, Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas Regarding the Situation at the Southwest Border

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