Trump’s opposition to senators’ recently proposed $118 billion bipartisan border bill, which ties border reforms to aid to Ukraine, has prompted many Republican lawmakers to reject it. It was also a potentially fatal blow to the possibility of new laws and instruments that could reduce illegal crossings and ease pressure on cities with overcrowded shelters. Biden may have to address such issues during his re-election run without help from Congress. He could try If crossings increase again and the situation gets out of hand, blame the Republicans.
Here are twelve charts showing the state of the immigration system and southern border under Biden compared to Trump:
Illegal crossings at the US-Mexico border
Illegal border crossings surged in the months after Biden took office, prompting an immediate rollback of many Trump-era restrictions. Biden warned that he would still enforce immigration laws, and he temporarily enforced a Trump pandemic policy known as Title 42 that allowed authorities to quickly expel border crossers.
The number of people taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol has reached the highest level in the agency’s 100-year history under Biden, with an average of 2 million per year.
During the president’s first days in office, his administration announced it would not use the Title 42 policy to return unaccompanied minors who arrive without a parent or guardian. Their numbers began to skyrocket almost immediately, and images of migrant children and teenagers crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in detention centers sparked the government’s first border emergency. Shortly thereafter, Biden tasked Vice President Harris to lead a new effort to address the “root causes” of Central American emigration.
Teenagers and children crossing without their parents are still reaching near-record numbers. Families and single adults are also arriving in historic numbers.
Migrants arriving across the U.S.-Mexico border are coming from a wider variety of countries than ever before. In 2019, the busiest year for border crossings under Trump, about 80 percent of migrants taken into U.S. custody came from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Last year, these three countries accounted for less than half of all border crossings.
Migrants from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Senegal and Mauritania – along with other countries in Africa, Europe and Asia – are crossing into Mexico in numbers U.S. authorities have never seen. For example, 14,965 migrants from China arrived across the southern border between October and December, Border Patrol data shows, compared with 29 during the same period in 2020. The Border Patrol encountered 9,518 migrants from India during that same three-month period, compared with 56 during that period in 2020.
The challenge of processing, detaining and potentially deporting migrants from such a wide range of countries has put pressure on the Biden administration, which has resorted to releasing migrants into the United States when facilities are overcrowded and requests for humanitarian protection cannot be resolved quickly.
Deportations, returns and expulsions
Since Title 42 ended in May, Biden officials have deported or sent back to Mexico and other countries about 500,000 people, surpassing Trump’s total, which averaged about 500,000 per year. But Biden’s higher numbers are partly the result of a much higher number of illegal crossings.
Trump implemented the Title 42 policy at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 to quickly expel border crossers without giving them a chance to seek U.S. protection. The Trump administration has expelled the vast majority who entered the United States, and the number of border crossings has remained relatively low.
Biden maintained the policy and ultimately expelled five times more border violators than Trump, especially as more migrants attempted to enter the United States in the period between Biden’s inauguration and May 2023, when he ended Title 42.
The Biden administration has released more than 2.3 million border crossers into the United States since 2021. The gap between the number of migrants in custody and the number of people returned or deported has widened every year over the past three years.
U.S. Domestic Immigration Enforcement
Border enforcement was one of the policies that shifted from Trump’s term to Biden’s.
On Biden’s first day in office, his administration ordered a pause on most arrests and deportations from the domestic United States by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Trump had promised to deport “millions” of immigrants during his term but fell far short of doing so, despite giving ICE officers wide latitude to go after anyone without legal status in the United States. During Trump’s term in office, deportations of migrants arrested by ICE averaged about 80,000 per year.
Biden’s Department of Homeland Security issued new guidance for ICE officers in 2021, directing them to prioritize national security threats, serious or violent criminals and recent border crossings. Workplace enforcement – ’raids’ – was stopped.
Deportations of migrants arrested by ICE have fallen to about 35,000 per year since Biden took office. Biden officials say they are doing a better job in targeting criminals who pose a threat to public safety, rather than detaining otherwise law-abiding immigrant workers.
Parole is an executive order in U.S. immigration law that allows the government to grant temporary relief to immigrants who do not qualify for a visa. Biden has relied heavily on parole as a foundation for his broader strategy to expand the options for migrants to reach the United States legally while tightening penalties against those who cross the border illegally.
The Trump administration sometimes used paroles to alleviate severe overcrowding and help CBP process migrants more quickly. But Biden’s use of this authority is the most extensive in American history. Republicans say his administration overstepped its authority and intended to use parole sparingly on a case-by-case basis.
Biden officials say the implementation of a parole program in January 2023, allowing 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the country each month fleeing political repression and economic turmoil, has reduced the influx at the borders . Last year, fewer Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans crossed the border illegally, but the program was less successful among Venezuelans.
Trump cut U.S. refugee admissions and set the cap at 15,000 in 2021 — the lowest level since the Refugee Act of 1980. Biden pledged to rebuild the program upon taking office. Although Biden has admitted more refugees than Trump, his administration is still falling below the annual limit of 125,000 refugees, partly due to the strain of so many arrivals at the border.
Applications for citizenship soared during Trump’s campaign and during his time in office after he promised to curb immigration as president. However, toward the end of his term, naturalizations lagged due to backlogs and financial problems at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes applications. In 2020, his administration instituted a new citizenship exam, which advocates said made it more difficult to pass.
After Biden came to power, he reinstated the old exam and encouraged more immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.
An estimated 9 million legal permanent residents are eligible to become citizens, which allows them to serve on juries, apply for federal jobs and vote in U.S. elections.
The number of naturalizations rose during Biden’s first two years in office but fell last year. The number of new citizens taking the oath remains higher than during the Trump administration.
The U.S. immigration court system — a division of the Justice Department — faced a huge backlog of cases when Biden took office, and the backlog has since nearly doubled to nearly 2.5 million pending cases. Many migrants seek asylum, a humanitarian protection for people fleeing persecution. Some migrants who recently crossed the border and requested protection will appear in court in more than five years.
The system’s inability to process cases quickly has become an incentive for additional illegal migration, as border crossers with weak asylum claims can apply for protection and live and work in the United States for years before having to worry about the risk of deportation.