Migrants sit outside the Migrant Resource Center on September 19, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio Migrant Resource Center is the place of origin of the two planeloads of mostly Venezuelan migrants who were sent via Florida to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. | Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images
United States law enforcement officials have encountered a record number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal year 2022 as the number of deaths at the border has also reached a new high.
Statistics compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveal 2,150,639 encounters between law enforcement officials and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first 11 months of the fiscal year, which concludes at the end of September.
With each of the past six months bringing an additional 200,000 border crossings, the total migrants intercepted at the southwest border will likely approach 2.5 million for fiscal year 2022.
By contrast, the first 11 months of the fiscal year 2021 saw just 1,542,685 encounters. The two previous years saw 400,414 and 924,963 encounters in the first 11 months. The fiscal year 2018 saw 396,579 encounters and 2017 saw just above 300,000.
President Joe Biden cited a change in the demographic makeup of the border crossers as the cause of the surge.
When asked at a press conference this week why the border was “overwhelmed” on his watch, Biden responded, “there are fewer immigrants coming from Central America and from Mexico,” adding, “This is a totally different circumstance.”
“What’s on my watch now is Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua and the ability to send them back to those states is not rational,” Biden said.
Critics of the Biden administration attribute the rise in border crossings, which are overwhelming the sparsely populated towns along the U.S.-Mexico border, to its abolition of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as Migrant Protection Protocols, that required those seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims were adjudicated.
The CBP officials have recorded as many as 782 migrants who have died trying to cross the southern border so far in the fiscal year 2022, sources told Fox News. CNN reported earlier this month that at least 748 migrants have died crossing the southern border, eclipsing last year’s record by over 200.
The path for many migrants through Central America is dangerous, and there have been multiple reports of mass casualties related to human trafficking. In July, 53 migrants, including three children, were found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer in the sweltering heat of San Antonio. Two men were indicted for their roles in what is said to be the deadliest smuggling incident in U.S. history.
Illegal immigration has dominated national headlines in the past week. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has received praise and criticism for sending 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, a popular vacation destination off the coast of Massachusetts.
Praise for the move focuses on the purported hypocrisy of Martha’s Vineyard for proclaiming itself a sanctuary city that welcomes illegal immigrants and shields them from deportation, only to put them on a bus to the mainland less than 48 hours after their arrival.
On Twitter, radio host Clay Travis posted a picture of a sign on Martha’s Vineyard proclaiming that “We stand with immigrants, with refugees, with indigenous peoples, and with people of all faiths.” Travis suggested that after working on getting the migrants off the island, Martha’s Vineyard would have to “update their virtue signaling sign.”
Rep. John Rose, R-Tenn., addressed the claim by Martha’s Vineyard officials that the area lacked the resources to care for the migrants by asking, “If a sanctuary city like Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t have the capacity or resources for 50 illegal immigrants, then why do liberals think border towns in Texas would?”
At the same time, DeSantis’ transportation of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard has resulted in the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, opening an investigation into the matter. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office announced on Twitter Monday that it had “opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, Texas, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha’s Vineyard, MA.”
Over the past year and a half, the Biden administration has transported migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico to different parts of the country. Last year, The New York Post reported on overnight flights of migrants landing in White Plains, New York, suggesting that they were transported there at night so they could be resettled in nearby communities without generating public opposition.
A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the migrants maintains that DeSantis “stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law.” However, an MSNBC report states that “they are not angry at Ron DeSantis. They are actually thanking him for bringing them to Martha’s Vineyard.”
Florida is not the first Republican-led state to send migrants to jurisdictions that overwhelmingly vote Democratic in presidential elections.
For several months, Texas has sent illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities, beginning with Washington, D.C., and later expanding to New York City and Chicago.
In addition to concerns about the financial impact, the surge in migration also comes with national security concerns.
This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested a convicted child rapist at a checkpoint in Uvalde, Texas. Statements published by the law enforcement agency over the past week indicate that law enforcement officials have captured over $113,000 of heroin and more than $1.3 million of cocaine at international border crossings in Texas.
The renewed national focus on illegal immigration comes slightly less than two months before the 2022 midterm elections. Public opinion polling reveals that voters see illegal immigration as a major issue facing the U.S.
In a poll of 1,500 adults conducted from Sept. 17-20 by YouGov/The Economist, 61% of respondents identified illegal immigration as either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue as opposed to 30% who viewed it as either a “minor problem” or “not a problem.”
The same survey found that a majority of voters (51%) characterized the issue of immigration as “very important” to them, and 7% of Americans pointed to immigration as “the most important issue.” Higher shares of Americans only classified four other issues as the “most important”: inflation and prices (19%), jobs and the economy (13%), climate change and the environment (11%) and healthcare (9%). Besides abortion (7%), smaller percentages of respondents ranked nine additional issues as the “most important.”
Additionally, the poll measured Biden’s approval rating on the issue of immigration at 33%, significantly lagging behind his disapproval rating of 53%. Voters are split on the policy of sending illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities, with 44% reporting that they either strongly or somewhat approve of it and 44% saying the opposite.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls measuring Biden’s approval rating on the issue finds the president significantly underwater, with just 35.2% of Americans expressing support for his administration’s handling of the issue and 57.4% indicating disapproval. The net disapproval rating in excess of 22 points is higher than his net disapproval rating on any other issue examined in the RealClearPolitics average of polls besides inflation.
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