Biden Administration Knew Border Surge Was Coming, Internal Documents Show—And Did Nothing

Federal agencies clocked a large buildup of migrants on the Mexican border in early September

(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
September 25, 2023

The Department of Homeland Security was aware that a large population of migrants was preparing to cross the southern border months before a near-record number surged into the country this month, internal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show—but appears to have taken no action to forestall an influx that has overwhelmed local officials across the United States.

The documents show that Mexican immigration authorities have seen a spike in apprehensions since May, an indication that border crossings were likely to rise, and that federal agencies documented a large buildup of migrants on the Mexican side of the border at the beginning of September.

The White House, which has struggled to counteract the surge of migrants that began when President Joe Biden took office in January of 2021, is pointing the finger at Republicans, arguing that GOP lawmakers in Congress are responsible for the problem because they have stymied the president's proposals for immigration reform. But Biden's problems on the southern border have put him at odds with Democratic officials, as Democratic leaders in cities like Chicago and New York have struggled to deal with tens of thousands of new arrivals, which are forcing lawmakers there to consider sharp budget cuts to pay for housing and other social services.

Neither Customs and Border Protection nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to a request for comment.

The warning signs on the Mexican side of the border came as immigration authorities recorded a record high number of migrant encounters in August. Customs and Border Protection announced last Friday evening that nearly 232,000 migrants crossed the border in August, a record for the calendar year and a nearly 27 percent increase from July.

There is little evidence the situation is set to improve, although El Paso mayor Oscar Leeser said Saturday his city is "at a breaking point." Nearly 100,000 more migrants are traveling through Panama and Mexico with the hopes of crossing into the United States, Reuters reported last week. So many migrants have illegally boarded trains that railroad operator Union Pacific temporarily ended service in Mexico.

Biden’s expansion of the CBP One app in January was pitched as a solution. In a speech, Biden heralded a "new process" that "is orderly … safe … and humane" and said the initiative would cause illegal border crossings to diminish. Those who did not apply through CBP One, Biden said, would be deported.

Other than a brief reprieve in mid-May, illegal border crossings have continued to rise since the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era rule that allowed for the quick deportation of illegal aliens. The Department of Homeland Security says 1,450 migrants a month may apply remotely for asylum with the CBP One app, although the agency has not honored its self-imposed limits.

"The CBP One app was supposed to alleviate the number of people living in Mexico waiting to apply for refugee status at the end of Title 42," a senior DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Free Beacon. "What’s happened is Mexico is dealing with more people coming into their country hoping to migrate to the United States and the Biden administration can’t wait to bring in people fast enough."

At least 3.8 million migrants have crossed the southern border since Biden took office, a record.

Even with advanced knowledge of a migrant build-up on the Mexican side of the border, the Biden administration has done little to alleviate what Eagle Pass, Texas, mayor Rolando Salinas, a Democrat, calls a "crisis." Eagle Pass declared a state of emergency this month after 5,000 migrants crossed over the border into the town.

Instead, Biden has placed blame for the state of the southern border on the Republican Party. "MAGA Republicans in Congress and my predecessor spent four years gutting the immigration system," Biden said Thursday in an address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

"They continue to undermine our border security today, blocking bipartisan reform," he added.

Biden expanded temporarily protected status for nearly 500,000 Venezuelans in the United States illegally last week. Those covered by the move, which is supposed to be reserved for those who cannot safely return to their home country, will be able to apply for work permits.