At least 301,707 people were apprehended or evaded law enforcement after illegally entering California in fiscal 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent.
This is out of a record 3.3 million illegal entries reported by Border Patrol for all nine southwest border sectors in the fiscal year.
Border Patrol agents apprehended at least 242,393 foreign nationals and reported at least 59,314 known and recorded gotaways in California’s two Border Patrol sectors of El Centro and San Diego, according to the data analyzed.
This excludes the month of September, for which all apprehension data is missing in the San Diego Sector. A reported glitch in the system occurred, which has never happened before, according to the Border Patrol agent who provided the data to The Center Square. The numbers represent 12 months of El Centro Sector data and 11 months of San Diego Sector data.
It also excludes Office of Field Operations data. If OFO data and one missing month of San Diego Sector data were included, the numbers would be higher.
California shares the smallest portion of the Mexico border of 137 miles, nearly evenly split in terms of linear mileage between the El Centro and San Diego sectors.
To put the number of illegal foreign national entries in perspective, if they were combined to populate a city, they would create the 15th largest city in California, behind Santa Ana’s population of slightly more than 307,000 people.
Their combined total would also create the 19th largest county in California and is greater than the individual populations of 36 out of California’s 58 counties.
In the El Centro Sector, Border Patrol agents apprehended 76,321 illegal foreign nationals and reported 8,631 gotaways. The number who were apprehended and evaded law enforcement were enough to populate nearly two El Centros and over two Calexicos, two of three towns where Border Patrol stations are located.
In the San Diego Sector, Border Patrol agents apprehended 166,072 illegal foreign nationals and reported 50,683 gotaways, totaling nearly 15% of San Diego’s population.
Gotaways is the term used by Border Patrol to categorize those who illegally enter the U.S. in between ports of entry to evade capture by law enforcement. CBP doesn’t publish the gotaway data. The Center Square obtains it from a Border Patrol agent who has access to CBP’s internal tracking system. The total is believed to be significantly higher because not all gotaways who evade capture are tracked or caught.
Law enforcement officers and Border Patrol agents have expressed the most concern about them because federal, state and local authorities don’t know who or where they are. These individuals, mostly single men of military age, didn’t enter seeking asylum or making other immigration claims. They also actively evade law enforcement as they make their way north. Many are believed to be working with cartels and gangs, engaging in human and drug trafficking, intent on committing other crimes in the U.S., law enforcement officers have told The Center Square.
The data also doesn’t reflect the level of crime California law enforcement officers are seeing, including record amounts of fentanyl and other illicit drugs being brought into the state through the southern border, law enforcement officers say. CBP agents are regularly making large busts of meth, cocaine and fentanyl.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman earlier this year said San Diego “has become the epicenter of fentanyl trafficking into the United States.”
At the time, more than 7,300 pounds of fentanyl had been seized at the southern border by CBP agents, excluding state and local law enforcement seizures.
More than 60% of the fentanyl that’s been seized nationwide has been seized in San Diego and Imperial counties, Grossman said. In 2021, 817 people died from fentanyl in Imperial County alone, and his office is prosecuting fentanyl-related offenses at an increased rate of 1600% over the past five years, he said.
His county’s efforts are similar to Riverside County’s, which has been aggressively prosecuting fentanyl dealers for murder.
From southern to northern California, law enforcement officers are sounding the alarm about the volume of drugs pouring into California.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux warned earlier this year, “One every eight minutes an American dies of a fentanyl overdose. Pills coming across our southern border is absolutely one of the biggest issues we are facing as a country.”