Sat, Sep 9, 2023 1:23 PM
By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
At least 215,908 foreign nationals were apprehended or reported evading capture after illegally entering the southwest border in August, according to preliminary Border Patrol data obtained by The Center Square.
This includes at least 187,553 apprehensions and 28,355 gotaways. “Gotaways” is the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection term that refers to the number of people known and reported to illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry who intentionally try to evade capture and don’t return to Mexico. In August, the most gotaways were reported in the Tucson and Rio Grande Valle sectors. Notably, with most Yuma agents pulled out of the field to deal with an influx of people arriving at open areas of the border wall, gotaway numbers reported by agents last month were extremely low, which is out of the ordinary.
CBP doesn’t publicly report gotaway data. The data was obtained by The Center Square from a U.S. Border Patrol agent who provided it on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. It only includes Border Patrol data and excludes Office of Field Operations data. Total numbers are higher once OFO data is included.
As of September 5, the preliminary data for August in the nine southwest border sectors include:
BIG BEND SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 114
Unclassifiable Detection- 2
Gotaways Interior Zone- 36
No Violations- 15
DEL RIO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 3,502
Unclassifiable Detection- 66
Gotaways Interior Zone- 580
No Violations- 75
EL CENTRO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 214
Unclassifiable Detection- 0
Gotaways Interior Zone- 0
No Violations- 3
EL PASO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 8,724
Unclassifiable Detection- 6
Gotaways Interior Zone- 176
No Violations- 13
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 1,152
Unclassifiable Detection- 5
Gotaways Interior Zone- 130
No Violations- 81
RIO GRANDE VALLEY SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 1,538
Unclassifiable Detection- 59
Gotaways Interior Zone- 264
No Violations- 77
SAN DIEGO SECTOR
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 2,811
Unclassifiable Detection- 28
Gotaways Interior Zone- 2,278
No Violations- 11
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 5,538
Unclassifiable Detection- 88
Gotaways Interior Zone- 1,204
No Violations- 72
Gotaways Border Zone (known/recorded)- 88
Unclassifiable Detection- 1
Gotaways Interior Zone- 6
No Violations- 22
Of top five stations with the most foot traffic, three were in Texas. By volume, Eagle Pass, Texas, had the most, followed by Ajo, Arizona, McAllen and Rio Grande City, Texas, and Santa Teresa, New Mexico, just west of El Paso.
The Eagle Pass station reported 23,378 apprehensions last month, followed by Ajo’s 20,600, McAllen’s 17,167, Rio Grande City’s 15,128, and Santa Teresa’s 12,148. Combined, the busiest stations reported 11,871 gotaways.
Apprehensions refer to those who illegally enter the U.S. and surrender or are caught by Border Patrol agents. Turnbacks refer to those who illegally enter but turn back to Mexico. The gotaway data indicates where foreign nationals are detected illegally entering the U.S., at the Mexican border or farther north in the interior.
Unclassifiable detection isn’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which specifies how encounters are to be reported. It means agents, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship. No-violations are individuals “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the internal tracking system Border Patrol agents use.
The gotaway data is believed to be much higher than reported because it doesn’t include unknown and unrecorded gotaways. With the majority of agents no longer in the field, they are unable to detect how many are getting through. Agents have explained to The Center Square they have no idea how many gotaways there really are in the U.S., who or where they are.