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About half of the 4.5 million encounters at the border ended in an immigrant leaving the U.S. At least 2.1 million of them ended in an immigrant being immediately sent back to Mexico or their home country under a public health rule.
Another 500,000 immigrants have been detained in the U.S. as they await immigration court hearings.
Not all of the immigrants released into the U.S. will stay in the country indefinitely. Some lose their asylum cases and are sent back to their home country.
In an effort to limit southwest border crossings, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, proposed a bill that would require authorities to deny U.S. entry to migrants seeking asylum as long as the U.S. doesn’t have space to detain them.
Roy bashed President Joe Biden’s handling of border crossings, saying most people encountered by border authorities have settled in the United States.
"Under Biden, we have seen over 4.6 MILLION encounters at our southern border. Most have been released into the interior and will stay here indefinitely," Roy said in a Jan. 23 Twitter thread. "This is no accident. Biden has shown the world that our borders are open and vulnerable to exploitation."
PLUS, Under Biden, we have seen over 4.6 MILLION encounters at our southern border.— Rep. Chip Roy Press Office (@RepChipRoy) January 23, 2023
Most have been released into the interior and will stay here indefinitely.
This is no accident
Biden has shown the world that our borders are open and vulnerable to exploitation
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows Roy is close on the encounters figure. But his claim that most people are staying here indefinitely is unsupported.
Roy’s office did not respond to our request for evidence supporting his claim.
CBP did not comment on the record, and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to our query.
From February 2021, Biden’s first full month in office, to December 2022, the latest month with available data, there were 4.5 million encounters with migrants at the southern border. This includes encounters recorded by border officers at official ports of entry, and by Border Patrol agents stationed between those ports of entry.
Roy's count includes encounters in January 2021, even though Biden was not president for most of that month.
Border encounters data represent the number of times officials stopped immigrants, not the number of individual immigrants stopped. If one person tries crossing the border three times, for example, that’s recorded as three encounters.
Roy’s claim that most of the immigrants encountered were released into the U.S. isn't accurate, immigration experts told PolitiFact.
When immigrants are stopped at the border by Border Patrol, they are either immediately expelled under Title 42, a public health order, or they are apprehended under immigration law. Some people are sent to a detention facility, some are released into the U.S. to await asylum proceedings, and some are forced to leave the country.
Theresa Cardinal Brown, a Bipartisan Policy Center senior adviser on immigration and border policy, told PolitiFact that Roy’s claim about immigrants staying here indefinitely "certainly wasn’t true," in fiscal year 2022 (Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2022). Most people were either expelled under Title 42 or deported under immigration law, she said.
A PolitiFact analysis found that about 53% of the encounters during the Biden administration resulted in immigrants being sent out of the U.S. About 2.1 million of those encounters led to expulsions under the Title 42 public health order.
Under Biden’s administration, at least 500,000 immigrants have been detained as they await their court hearings, said Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
Others who have been let into the country and applied for asylum may ultimately be deported if they can’t persuade an immigration judge to let them stay.
Asylum approvals are "not guaranteed and would be false to state that most will stay indefinitely," Ruiz Soto said.
Some people let into the U.S. are enrolled into programs under the Alternatives to Detention umbrella; these usually require that they check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement via a phone app as they await their court hearings. Others have been given a notice to appear at immigration court at a later date. Officials decide enrollment case by case.
Immigration authorities also let in some people under parole, which allows immigrants to stay in the U.S. temporarily. Once in the U.S., parolees can try to adjust their status for lawful permanent residency. Recently, the Biden administration created a parole program for immigrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela to enter the U.S. and work for two years.
Because encounters data represent events, not individuals, it’s difficult to know precisely how many people attempted to come into the country.
Roy tweeted that "under Biden, we have seen over 4.6 MILLION encounters at our southern border. Most have been released into the interior and will stay here indefinitely."
He is basically right about the number of encounters: There were about 4.5 million immigration encounters at the southern border from Biden’s first full month in office to December 2022.
But most of these immigrants have not been released into the U.S. At least 2.1 million encounters ended in immediate expulsions under a public health order.
Among the people allowed in, about 500,000 immigrants were detained while they await immigration court hearings. The rest were released into the country.
These numbers also represent initial outcomes. Just because immigrants are released into the U.S. to seek asylum, does not mean they will stay indefinitely.
Roy’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.
Phone interview, Ariel Ruiz Soto, policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, Jan. 30, 2023
Email exchange, Theresa Cardinal Brown, Senior Advisor, Immigration and Border Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Jan. 30, 2023
Email exchange, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Director at the American Immigration Council, Jan. 30, 2023
Email exchange, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, Jan. 30, 2023
Tweet, Rep. Chip Roy, Jan. 23, 2023
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nationwide Encounters, accessed Jan. 30, 2023
PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: What can we expect if Title 42 is lifted?, Dec. 16, 2022
U.S. Code, Title 8, accessed Jan. 30, 2023
Bipartisan Policy Center, How Was Immigration Enforcement Law Used at the Border in FY2022?, Nov. 16, 2022
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