As the number of economic migrants apprehended climbs daily, those with previous criminal convictions or affiliated with violent gangs follow the trend. In the current fiscal year, according to a source within CBP, nearly 9,000 criminal migrants have been arrested. The agency reports another 279 criminal gang members were caught during the same time period. These figures contrast against 2,438 criminal migrant arrests in 2020.
The term “criminal alien” is not used by Border Patrol to refer to migrants with only immigration violations. It is reserved for those with convictions for state and federal crimes like murder, rape, sexual assault, burglary, robbery, narcotics, and more.
The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says nearly 1,000 migrants had convictions for assault and battery; nearly 50 were convicted of homicide; nearly 400 were convicted of sexual offenses. The number of criminal migrant encounters has risen by nearly 50 percent since May.
Most of these individuals are returning to the United States illegally after deportations. Although they constitute a minority of the migrants encountered by the Border Patrol, criminal migrant and gang member encounters play out daily along the southwest border.
On Tuesday, Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass, Texas, arrested a female migrant. After reviewing her criminal history, agents quickly discovered she was convicted of 3rd degree homicide in Pennsylvania. After serving a 15 to 30-year sentence, she was removed in 2019.
On Friday morning, agents in Hidalgo, Texas, arrested an Ecuadoran national shortly after he crossed the Rio Grande. The arresting agents discovered a previous arrest and conviction in New York for sexual abuse involving a victim under than 13 years of age.
Hours later, agents working near Los Ebanos, Texas, apprehended a group of nine. Among them was a Guatemalan whose criminal history revealed he previously served four years for a sex crime in Angleton, Texas, in 2011. The migrant is a registered sex offender.
During the week of August 22-28, seven suspected gang members were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley. Five were linked to the MS-13, one to the 18th Street gang, and another to the Sureño-13. The Sureño-13 member was found to have a previous conviction for kidnapping and domestic violence in Los Angeles, California. Of the 279 criminal gang members arrested by Border Patrol nationwide, more than 150 were caught crossing in the Rio Grande Valley.
With migrant apprehensions nearing an all-time high this fiscal year, the Border Patrol is struggling to carry out routine field operations while it provides humanitarian aid required by thousands of migrants in detention.
The Border Patrol has apprehended more than 1.2 million migrants since October 2020. Most are fleeing their countries for economic or political reasons. Less than 1% of all encounters involve those who meet the definition of criminal or are known to have gang affiliations.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.