by Bethany Blankley
At least 156,274 people illegally entered the U.S. in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data published on Friday, down 40 percent from 251,978 in December 2022, it says. The data excludes gotaway numbers referring to those who are known and reported to illegally enter between ports of entry, evade capture by law enforcement, and don’t return to Mexico or Canada.
In December, at least 87,631 gotaways were reported in the nine southern border sectors, according to data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent. The agent provided the information on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation; it only includes Border Patrol data and excludes Office of Field Operations data.
In January, gotaways totaled nearly 60,000, with the greatest numbers being reported in the El Paso and Del Rio sectors of Texas. Apprehensions and gotaways combined totaled at least 215,998 in January, according to the data.
“The January monthly operational update clearly illustrates that new border enforcement measures are working, with the lowest level of Border Patrol encounters between Ports of Entry since February of 2021,” CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said. “Those trends have continued into February, with average encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans plummeting.”
The monthly number is nearly as high as the total apprehensions for nine southwest sectors reported in fiscal 2017, excluding gotaways, of 303,916, according to CBP data. January’s monthly total is also greater than the total numbers apprehended in fiscal 1970 and each fiscal year through 1960 when Border Patrol began reporting the data by sector.
Since President Biden’s been in office, monthly apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals surpassed a minimum of 150,000 for 23 consecutive months, with some months, including gotaways, like last November and December, totaling over 300,000 each.
According to preliminary Border Patrol data obtained by The Center Square, Texas continued to bear the brunt of illegal entries, with El Paso and Del Rio sectors seeing the most traffic.
As of February 2, the preliminary data for January by sector includes:
BIG BEND SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 631
Unclassifiable Detection- 11
Gotaways Interior Zone- 78
No Violations- 10
DEL RIO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 13,303
Unclassifiable Detection- 53
Gotaways Interior Zone- 2,787
No Violations- 88
EL CENTRO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 318
Unclassifiable Detection- 0
Gotaways Interior Zone- 7
No Violations- 1
EL PASO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 16,607
Unclassifiable Detection- 5
Gotaways Interior Zone- 196
No Violations- 54
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 1,230
Unclassifiable Detection- 15
Gotaways Interior Zone- 581
No Violations- 116
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 1,728
Unclassifiable Detection- 44
Gotaways Interior Zone- 687
No Violations- 136
SAN DIEGO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 4,567
Unclassifiable Detection- 3
Gotaways Interior Zone- 3,036
No Violations- 11
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 10,824
Unclassifiable Detection- 65
Gotaways Interior Zone- 2,433
No Violations- 126
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 673
Unclassifiable Detection- 8
Gotaways Interior Zone- 38
No Violations- 13
Apprehensions include those in the U.S. illegally who surrender or are caught by BP officers. Turnbacks include those who entered illegally but returned to Mexico.
Gotaways are being reported two ways to show how many are reported evading capture as they make their way north despite the best efforts of BP agents and local law enforcement attempting to apprehend them.
For example, in the RGV Sector of Texas, the 687 recorded in the gotaway interior zone would have been identified somewhere along Highway 281, up into Brooks County several hundred miles north of the border.
Unclassifiable detection (previously “unresolved detection”) isn’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which classifies how encounters are to be reported. This and the now-deleted category of “no arrests” were used as a way to lower the number of gotaways being reported, a BP agent explained to The Center Square on condition of anonymity out of fear for the agent’s job.
The previously deleted category of “no arrests” meant someone “was detected in a non-border zone and their presence didn’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the official internal tracking system definition used by agents to record data. “Unclassifiable detection” means the same thing, but the officers, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship.
No-violations are “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the tracking system definition. The categories of no-violations, no arrests and unclassifiable detection should actually be categorized as got-aways, the BP officer said, assuming all non-arrests were of non-citizens. However, each sector also uses unclassified detection differently, the officer added, so how the numbers are categorized isn’t actually uniform.
If the categories of unclassified detection and no-violations were included with the gotaway numbers, the total number of gotaways for January would be closer to 60,483.
However, these numbers still don’t represent the real picture, those in law enforcement have explained to The Center Square, because they don’t include those who are unknown and unrecorded. Not all gotaways are recorded because the agents and law enforcement officers on the ground don’t spot them all, meaning the number of those entering the U.S. illegally is expected to be much greater than is reported.
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