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Editor's note: This item was originally posted with a rating of Mostly True, based on a transcript provided by CBS. After Sen. Ron Johnson's staff objected to that version, we listened to the audio multiple times and feel the way his office transcribed the interview is correct. That changes this rating to True.
To President Donald Trump, the number of illegal border crossings at the southern border has become so great that he declared the situation a national emergency.
But just how much traffic is flowing from Mexico to the United States?
According to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., roughly 23,000 families per week are crossing the border illegally. He made the comment following a recent trip to the southern border, saying Congress should prioritize action to cut border crossings instead of investigating Trump.
"Just the last three weeks, on average, about 23,000 women, children, men are coming over across the border illegally as family units or as unaccompanied children," Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said May 26, 2019 on CBS’ "Face the Nation." He then referenced "22,000 to 23,000 per week," tweaking the number slightly.
That’s a lot of illegal crossings.
We decided to look into the numbers.
Republicans have repeatedly referred to a border crisis at the southern edge of the country, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection data indeed shows a dramatic shift in recent months.
The Border Patrol reports 440,000 apprehensions at the southwest border through May of 2019, already nearly equal to the 467,000 apprehensions in all of 2018.
The number of apprehensions per month jumped from 48,000 in January to more than 90,000 in March and April and 133,000 in May.
Those tallies include three different categories of immigrant tracked by the Border Patrol -- family units (anyone apprehended along with a family member), unaccompanied children and single adults. The totals do not include immigrants who are turned away when seeking asylum or other lawful admission to the U.S.
When we contacted Johnson’s office, spokesman Ben Voelkel said Johnson’s reference to 23,000 crossings came from Border Patrol apprehension data. Johnson’s office took the number of apprehensions in May involving family units and unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and divided by four.
The "Face the Nation" transcript quoted Johnson as referring to unaccompanied children in a separate sentence: "... about 23,000 women- women, children, men are coming over across the border illegally as family units. There's unaccompanied children." That makes it less clear whether Johnson is including children in the 23,000 tally. But a news release from Johnson’s office used the "or as unaccompanied children" phrasing.
Regardless, Johnson’s statement referenced illegal crossings in general, not from specific countries. So we’ll use that criteria to check his math.
For May, the Border Patrol reported 96,049 apprehensions of immigrants from family units or unaccompanied children at the southern border. Converted to a weekly average (with 4.43 weeks in a 31-day month), that’s 21,681 people per week from a family unit.
If we look at all immigrants apprehended in May at the southern border -- families, adults and unaccompanied children -- the weekly average is about 30,000.
That’s more than three times the rate from a year earlier. In May 2018, an average of 9,000 migrants per week were apprehended at the southern border.
Johnson said about 23,000 people per week are crossing the southern border illegally as family units or unaccompanied children.
The data used to reach that number doesn’t quite match the way Johnson described it, so the actual number was a little under 22,000 per week in May. So he’s very close.
If we look at all apprehensions at the southern border, the number is well over what Johnson cited. And his general point about the increasing number of apprehensions at the border is correct.
We rate this claim True.
Ron Johnson, Twitter.com, May 29, 2019
CBS, "Face the Nation" transcript, May 26, 2019
Ron Johnson website, Johnson Discusses Urgent Need to Fix Broken Immigration System on CBS’s Face the Nation, May 26, 2019
E-mail interview with Ben Voelkel, communications director for Ron Johnson on June 11, 2019
Customs and Border Patrol, Southwest Border Migration Fiscal Year 2019
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