Illegal immigration arrests under Biden exceed Obama’s eight years

Biden’s broken border is a five-part Washington Examiner Series highlighting the border security records President Joe Biden has shattered in less than two years in office and the impact the crisis is having on the United States. Part One below examines how Biden broke the record for migrant arrests back in 2022. Part Two will examine the dramatic change in the demographics of immigrants crossing the border illegally. Part three will explore the consequences of children crossing the border alone in unprecedented numbers. Part four looks at the record number of migrants who have died trying to enter the US, and part five looks at the deadly fentanyl crisis that has rocked communities deep in the country.

Since the beginning of 2021, an extraordinary number of immigrants from Mexico have been crossing the United States, sparking a series of border and interior crises – the likes of which are unprecedented.

In the first year and a half of President Joe Biden’s administration, border patrol officers nationwide arrested more people who crossed the border illegally than in President Barack Obama’s two terms – an indication of the magnitude of the situation.

The 20,000 federal agents of the Border Patrol nationwide arrested 3,484,327 immigrants who were barred from entering the United States in less than two years under Biden’s presidency, compared with 3,384,816 arrests in the eight fiscal years that coincided with Obama’s two terms in office. Some illegal immigrants attempted to cross more than once, especially during the pandemic because agents immediately turned many back to Mexico.


Border Series Day-1.jpg

Border Patrol arrests are breaking records under President Joe Biden. Biden already broke the record for illegal immigration fears in fiscal 2022, two months before the end of the fiscal year.

(Washington examiner)

“We’ve never seen anything like this before … the millions of people who are coming into our country and the women and children who are going through the abuse that they are going through,” said Rep. Mayra Flores, a Republican whose district is a member of south texas border.

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Federal agents have made 150,000 to 200,000 arrests each month for the past 18 months, mostly at the US-Mexico border. Ten months into the government’s fiscal year 2022, border police have arrested 1,822,620 people – beating the 2021 record of 1,662,167.

“It really was a perfect storm,” said Ken Oliver, senior director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Immigration program in Washington. “There are no real breaks at the moment. The flow is only getting worse in terms of the number of countries involved.”

Beset by the unprecedented numbers on track to reach a record-breaking 2 million arrests this year alone, Vice President Kamala Harris claimed in an interview earlier this month that “the border is secure.”

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the American Immigration Council’s policy director, who dismissed the Trump administration’s immigration policies as too harsh, agreed that the situation was a “challenge,” but he argued the increase in the numbers shows that more people are caught than before administrations.

“When we talk about record arrests, you have to put in the context that until recently, a large proportion of the people who crossed the border were not arrested,” Reichlin-Melnick said. “Nevertheless, this is undoubtedly a major challenge.”

He claimed Biden’s specific policies weren’t the root cause, but he said his rhetoric, a softening of the tone from former President Donald Trump’s harsh speeches, has been seen as a green light in other countries.

“Perception is much more important than politics. When President Biden took office, people perceived that he was going to be a more generous president, and that led to more people coming to the border, even though he wasn’t actually doing anything that would make that happen,” Reichlin-Melnick said added that the termination of Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy) only affected 70,000 asylum seekers.

“What a president actually does is very different from what a president is said to have done.”


Republicans have pelted Biden with claims that his immigration promises have enticed people from around the world to travel to the United States. After taking office, the Biden administration stopped turning away unaccompanied migrant children, tried to halt deportations for 100 days, and suspended construction of border walls.

Immigration Fact Check

In this June 18, 2014 file photo, inmates sleep and look at a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being treated and held at the US Customs and Border Protection Agency’s Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

“We actually expected that,” said Oliver. “If you allow huge crowds of migrants with mostly invalid applications to get into the asylum line, but they get in – it’s catch and release.”

However, Laura Collins, who studies the impact of immigration on economic policy at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, said Biden was not to blame.

“It’s really hard to pin down one political party, one government, because there are so many factors that go into it,” said Collins, director of the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative at the Bush Institute, who pointed out that “global record evictions”.

As of March 2020, immigrants arriving at the southern border are no longer allowed to seek asylum at land-based ports of entry under Public Health Order Title 42. In response, those desperate for help are circling the port and entering it illegally. Because border guards have had an instant ability to turn illegal immigrants away during the pandemic, this has resulted in higher recidivism rates than in the years before the pandemic. A person who is returned to Mexico can attempt to re-enter illegally and continue to do so until they enter without being arrested.

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Migrants cross the Rio Grande towards the United States at Eagle Pass, Texas.

(Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

“What we’re seeing at the border is a problem in that it’s a symptom of a larger broken system,” Collins said. “Failing to provide our protection as a beacon of freedom and opportunity around the world to people who deserve protection is a symptom of a broken immigration system.”

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To deal with the surge in numbers, the Biden administration has focused its efforts on improving conditions at federal immigration facilities and releasing people quickly. It has opened numerous tent facilities where thousands of immigrants are detained each day while they are processed and either removed from the country or released with a future immigration court date.


The massive tent facility outside of Eagle Pass, Texas, was completed this spring and opened for migrant detention in mid-July.

(US Customs and Border Protection)

Andrew Arthur, a former federal immigration judge who is now an immigration analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies think tank in Washington, explained that failure to return people to their countries of origin led the Biden administration to transfer 1,049,532 people to the United States released “a population greater than the population of the president’s home state of Delaware,” Arthur wrote in a blog post.

The more than 1 million people who have been displaced upstate are more than the populations of Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle or Washington, based on 2021 Census Bureau data.

The impact of releasing migrants on buses, airlines and other transport networks in border cities has prompted Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) to offer free bus rides to cities that immigrants would otherwise have to pay to fly. Abbott blamed Biden’s “disastrous open borders policy” for the strain on Texas communities and resources.

More than 10,000 immigrants have volunteered to board buses to Chicago, New York City and Washington since this spring, a small fraction compared to the remaining 990,000 who self-organized their journey.

Migrants on buses from Texas arrive in New York City

Buses carrying migrants recently arrested for crossing the Texas border arrive at the Port Authority bus terminal in Midtown New York City in New York August 29, 2022.

(Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Democratic mayors in the three cities are reeling from the drop-offs. Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency, calling the fewer than 10,000 immigrants bused into the district a “humanitarian crisis.” NYC Mayor Eric Adams has spent nearly $7 million on facilities designed to accommodate immigrants, while homeless shelters are experiencing overcapacity and the city is looking for 5,000 hotel rooms to accommodate the immigrants in the future.


“As long as current policies continue, this trend will only continue to cause tremendous strain on cities and communities across the United States,” Oliver said.

The effects can also be felt across the border.

Flores, the first Mexican-born woman elected to Congress, said the border crisis and the strength of the criminal cartel had made parts of her home country so unsafe that she and her constituents decided to stop traveling to Mexico to see family members.

“We can’t visit them,” Flores said, “because of the fear of these organizations.”

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