Illegal Alien Border Apprehensions: What the Numbers Mean

1) The Big Picture: Record 3.2 million encounters in Fiscal Year 2023, up 16 percent since FY 2022.

September 2023’s illegal alien border apprehension numbers are finally out, marking the end of Fiscal Year 2023. The picture they paint, is bleak, but also, given the lax security at the border, completely predictable. The total number of people encountered trying to cross our borders illegally was a record-breaking 3.2 million, up from 2.76 million in FY 2022 and 1.96 million in FY 2021.

Following the termination of Title 42 in May 2023, encounters briefly dipped only to rebound up again once it became obvious that the Biden administration’s announcement it would impose greater security did not materialize. Other factors have also played a huge role in driving the growing influx, including parole programs and the administration’s policies regarding Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

2) Types of Illegal Aliens: Big jump in migrants encountered traveling in family groups, up 62 percent in FY 2023.

One trend in illegal migration is the shifting composition of the flows. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) breaks down the encountered illegal aliens into four categories: single adults, individuals in a family unit (FMUA), unaccompanied minors (UC), and accompanied minors (AM).

Between FYs 2022 and 2023, the share of single adults as a percentage of the total nationwide encounters dropped from 72 percent to 64 percent, while that of family units went up from 22 percent to 31 percent. This shift in composition has imposed challenges on CBP. Our border processing facilities were largely constructed at a time when most illegal aliens coming to the border were single individuals. It is challenging to process women and children in facilities with unrelated adults, with obvious privacy and safety concerns. Despite this trend and the record high number overall, the Biden administration is actually trying to remove funding for thousands of detention beds it refuses to use.

3) Parole Programs: Big Pull Factor for Beneficiary Nations

The administration’s parole programs no doubt played a big role in attracting more illegal aliens. Encounters with Haitians increased by 189 percent and those of Venezuelans almost doubled. This was further exacerbated by a TPS designation in the case of Venezuela (March 2021) and a subsequent extension and redesignation (September 2023). In the case of Haiti, TPS was extended (August 2021) and extended and redesignated (December 2022). These programs and announcements related to them clearly drive flows of illegal aliens. In this context, redesignations are even more problematic than extensions because the former apply to new arrivals.

Such parole-driven increases have not caused the administration to reconsider its parole programs. In fact, in the case of Ecuador, a surge in illegal immigration from that South American nation – by a breathtaking 371 percent between FY 2022 and 2023 – actually led to a parole program for Ecuadorians being announced in October 2023.

4) Border Security: Open to Terrorism and Tyrannies

Lax border policies have also allowed more illegal aliens to enter from authoritarian nations such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia and communist China. The number of Chinese nationals encountered has almost doubled between FYs 2022-2023 and increased by 58 percent for Russians. In terms of single adults that figure has gone up by 36 percent for Russian nationals and 73 percent for Chinese nationals.

More open borders policies also greatly increase the potential for foreign spies, hostile operatives, sleeper agents, and even terrorists to attempt to infiltrate the vast sea of illegal migrants. A record total of 172 people on the terror watchlist were caught trying to enter between ports of entry in FY 2023. This compares to an annual average of 2-3 per year just a few years ago.

This danger becomes even more real when we take into account that countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela (all beneficiaries of the administration’s parole programs) have a close alliance with Russia, China and the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran.


The record high numbers are a predictable consequence of open borders, parole programs, status extensions/redesignations and other policy decisions. The consequences of the scale of this are being felt everywhere. In big cities illegal aliens have arrived in massive numbers and placed an unsustainable burden on city resources. Mayor of New York City Eric Adams bluntly stated the crisis could “destroy” the city, a view that 58 percent of New Yorkers agreed with. At the wider national level, illegal immigrants already cost the taxpayer $150.7 billion. As the flow increases, it seems likely this cost will keep increasing.

The fiscal year statistics are discouraging. Nevertheless, FAIR will continue to lead, teach and educate the public on the dangers of uncontrolled immigration.

EDITORS NOTE: This FAIR column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. © COPYRIGHT 2023 FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM.

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