Last week could mark the most consequential development on the U.S.-Mexico border since January 2021, when President Joe Biden essentially opened the nation’s doors to millions of illegal border crossers. Depending on how court fights turn out, Title 42, the Trump-era measure that allows the U.S. government to quickly return illegal crossers to Mexico on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID, will likely soon expire. After that, officials expect a flood of illegal crossers, all coming into the United States confident that they, like hundreds of thousands before them just this year, will be allowed to stay.
The disaster will come on top of the Biden administration’s currently disastrous border policy. In fiscal year 2022, the period from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022, Border Patrol agents encountered a record number of migrants crossing illegally into the United States — 2,378,944. Add onto that the estimated 600,000 illegal crossers who got away without any contact with the Border Patrol, and that means close to 3 million border crossers in a single year. The two months since the beginning of the new fiscal year have seen crossings at an even higher rate. And that is before the Title 42 change.
Already, the numbers have risen to unheard-of levels. Recently the Border Patrol reported encountering 16,000 migrants in just 48 hours — 8,000 per day. Compare that to the assessment of Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama’s head of homeland security, who once said that 1,000 encounters a day constituted a crisis. Now, there are predictions that post-Title 42 encounters might hit as many as 14,000 a day.
Cities and towns along the border have been overwhelmed since the Biden changes took place. Look at these figures from El Paso, Texas, in a story by the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli: “According to all the data that are publicly available from the city, the 678,000 residents of El Paso have seen 84,082 immigrants released into their town between August 22 and December 11.” That’s an extraordinary influx in the last few months, repeated in other U.S. communities along the border.
But perhaps just as extraordinary has been the decision by many major media organizations that what is happening on the border is no big deal. In particular, major television news networks, with the notable exception of Fox News, have virtually pretended that the crisis was not happening. Recently Fox’s Bill Melugin, who has covered the current crisis close-up since it began, was asked about coverage on the national networks. “I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen them down here in my 19 months of covering this,” Melugin said.
Now, we are seeing what happens when so many in the media ignore a story. A new Harvard-Harris poll shows that Americans have no idea how bad the crisis is. When asked how many illegal crossers are entering the United States, they grossly underestimate the number. They are, in short, in the dark about what is happening on the border.
The pollsters asked: “How many border crossings by illegal immigrants do you think are occurring each year?” They were then given several ranges of numbers to choose from. Now remember, the correct answer for fiscal year 2022 is nearly 3 million.
Sixteen percent guessed that less than 100,000 illegal border crossers entered the United States in a year. Another 21% estimated that somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 entered the U.S. Another 18% guessed between 250,000 and 500,000. And then 20% guessed between 500,000 and 1 million.
After that, 12% estimated between 1 million and 2 million cross in a year. And then 6% said between 2 million and 3 million. Finally, 7% said the number was over 3 million.
Remember again that the correct answer is about 3 million. All told, 87% of those surveyed underestimated the number of illegal border crossers each year. Significant groups of Americans really underestimated the number — about one-third believed fewer than 250,000 crossers are coming each year, which is a remarkably uninformed opinion. More than half believe less than 500,000 are coming, another remarkably uninformed opinion.
How is it that so many people are so ignorant of what is happening? Might the answer have something to do with the fact that so many news organizations have ignored the problem? Ignore the story and you’ll have ignorant viewers.
The information deficit among so many Americans favors the Biden administration. If more people knew the true scope of the problem the president’s policies have created, then more would likely be concerned, and more would oppose the administration’s actions. Indeed, the Harvard-Harris pollsters, once they informed respondents of the correct answer, asked, “Given these numbers, should the administration continue its current policies or issue new, stricter policies to reduce the flow of people coming across the border?” Sixty-seven percent of those polled favored new, stricter policies, while just 33% wanted to continue current policies.
If more people knew what was happening, more people would demand change.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. For a deeper dive into many of the topics Byron covers, listen to his podcast, The Byron York Show, available on the Ricochet Audio Network at ricochet.com/series/byron-york-show and everywhere else podcasts are found.