Fact check: Have 5 million migrants crossed the southern border since Biden took office?

By Daniel Gonzalez || Arizona Republic

Political candidates continue to claim 5 million people have crossed the border since Joe Biden became president, with the suggestion that they are now living in the U.S.

Where did the 5 million number come from, and how accurate is it?

One of the main sources for the number is the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank.

The Arizona Republic spoke with Mark Morgan, who explained how he came up with the estimate. He worked for former President Donald Trump as the acting commission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that includes the Border Patrol, which he also commanded under former President Barack Obama.

Morgan is now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for reducing all immigration.

The Republic also reached out to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute and the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Both organizations said the 5 million number is inaccurate.

Estimating the actual number of people who have crossed the border is not an exact science. Coming up with an estimate depends on how Customs and Border Protection data is interpreted.

While there is no question the Border Patrol has logged a record number of encounters, each encounter does not represent a unique individual because some migrants are caught multiple times. Border Patrol encounters also include the huge surge in families and unaccompanied minors who turn themselves into agents, rather than attempting to evade detection. 

The agency also does not publish some critical data, notably the number of migrants who cross but are not caught, making it even murkier to estimate the total number of people who cross. 

The case for 5 million border crossings


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November 2022