There’s a real possibility FY21 could set a record for the highest number of border encounter ever recorded. I’ll get to that in a moment but first let’s look at the numbers for August. The official figures haven’t been released by CBP yet, but Rep. Henry Cuellar posted a tweet this morning showing the approximate numbers for August:
Total FY21 encounters through August= 1,471,194*
Total August encounters= 195,000*
Total August Title 8 encounters= 103,000*
Total August Title 42 encounters= 92,000*
*all numbers are approximate
— Rep. Henry Cuellar (@RepCuellar) September 9, 2021
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, it represents a drop from the 212,672 encounters we had in July. The July figure was the highest monthly total in 21 years. Now that the numbers are finally going down instead of up, maybe we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel:
“A Border Patrol person told me yesterday, ‘I think I’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel.’ He’s talking about the numbers going down. ‘I just hope it’s not a train coming at me,’” Cuellar told Border Report on Thursday.
The other way to look at this is that 195,000 encounters would be, with the exception of last month, the highest monthly total in 21 years. Seriously, you have to go all the way back to February and March of 2000 to see monthly totals that surpass 195,000. So we may finally be heading in the right direction but we’re still at record high numbers.
Rep. Cuellar noted that all of his figures were approximate. Even so, I’m not sure how he came up with 1.47 million total encounters for FY21. The official figures show the total encounters for FY21 through July were 1,331,822. If you add another 195,000 to the total for August, you’d be at 1,526,822. That’s about 55,000 higher than the figure Cuellar came up with and I’m not sure why.
But let’s assume that the 1.52 million figure is correct. If so then FY21 would already rank 6th in the number of annual encounters recorded since 1925. And of course we still have one more month of FY21 to go.
Looking forward a bit, if there are just 100,000 more encounters recorded in September (this month), FY21 will end with the third highest annual total since 1925. If there are 175,000 encounters in September, then we’d be at 1.7 million encounters for the fiscal year. That would be the highest total ever recorded.
I suspect the Biden administration is well aware that setting a new record for border encounters would not look so good after spending most of the year denying there was a crisis. Maybe they are hoping that seasonal change Biden talked about earlier this year will finally kick in. I’m not so sure.
The weather is no longer a clear factor in their favor. Border crossings do usually drop when it gets hot in July and August but September is more of a wild card. In previous years, the numbers sometimes went down in September but sometimes they went up instead. This chart shows the number for FY13 to FY18. As you can see on the right hand side of the chart, September saw an increase in three of those years and a decrease in three others. The figures below are hard to read but you can see the full sized chart here.
The official numbers for August should be out sometime between this afternoon and Monday. Once we have those, we’ll know exactly where FY21 stands thus far. But I think there’s a real possibility Biden could set a new annual record for border encounters about a month from now.