IMMIGRATIONBorder Patrol: 70 Percent Drop in Successful Evasions Since Title 42 Ended

By David J. Bier

Published 8 March 2024

The United States has a legitimate interest in regulating the entry of serious criminals and other threats to Americans, and border security is a significant component of that effort. Ending Title 42 improved border security and reduced successful illegal entries. This should force the many members of Congress and the administration who opposed ending Title 42 to rethink their position.

This updates an earlier post.

Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens confirmed last week that the number of known successful evasions of Border Patrol (“gotaways”) have fallen to just 800 per day in fiscal year 2024—down 70 percent from 2,671 the week before the Title 42 expulsion authority ended on May 11. A decline in gotaways this large and fast is unprecedented in Border Patrol’s history, and even as the administration faces unrelenting criticism, this stands as a major immigration win.

I have previously written about this phenomenon, using numbers leaked by Border Patrol to friendly journalists who report them without the context of the broader trend. But this update confirms that the low numbers continued into January and February. Figure 1 shows the monthly data using the chief’s update and media reporting for more recent numbers and a Freedom of Information Act for the older numbers. Gotaways fell from a high of 73,463 in April 2023 just before Title 42 ended to about 21,758 in February 2024. Ending Title 42 appears to have been the biggest single benefit to border security in its history.

Interestingly, the decline in gotaways has persisted even when the number of arrests has increased. Getting rid of Title 42 without letting people come legally was never going to change every aspect of the situation, but it has not made the situation worse. From the standpoint of border security, the situation has improved dramatically because fewer people are escaping screening by the Border Patrol. This means Border Patrol can more effectively screen out criminals. Moreover, contrary to the apocalyptic claims about ending Title 42, the average number of Border Patrol arrests has not increased.

Figure 3 shows the “gotaway” rate—that is, the share of gotaways out of all arrests and gotaways. This is a rough approximation of Border Patrol effectiveness, controlling for the total inflow. As it shows, since Title 42 ended, the gotaway rate has fallen dramatically to below 14 percent, the lowest level outside of a couple months in 2019. This is a return to the trend under the Obama administration in reducing the rate of successful crossings. Every month since August 2023 has been below 15 percent—the longest such period on record. According to the Rio Grande Valley sector chief, this trend of low gotaway rates continued in that sector into March, and Fox News is reporting a low rate nationwide in March as well.

None of this should be a surprise. In our amicus brief outlining reasons to be skeptical of claims that Title 42