Johnson holds US-Mexico border roundtable amid increase in migrant encounters

MILWAUKEE — Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on Tuesday hosted a roundtable discussion about the U.S.-Mexico border, blasting the Biden administration for what he called “open border” policies as border protection officials deal with a spike in land border encounters.

The roundtable in Milwaukee comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows encounters at the southern border for the 2022 fiscal year — from October 2021 through September 2022 — have already surpassed the previous fiscal year. The latest CBP data from earlier this month reports 1,946,780 total encounters during the current fiscal year with two months remaining; last fiscal year, that number sat at 1,734,686.

Mark Morgan, a former CBP commissioner, laid much of the blame for the increase in migrant encounters with lawmakers.

Over the past decades, “Every single time that we’ve seen an ebb and flow, there’s been a cause-and-effect relationship with policy, with law and with politics. Every single time,” he said.

Bad policies, he added, have also resulted in more unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border.

CBP data shows that so far this fiscal year, single adults make up nearly 70% of the total encounters, with 23% of encounters involving individuals in a family unit and slightly under 7% involving unaccompanied minors. Still, the numbers of single adults, unaccompanied minors and accompanied minors are all up from before the COVID-19 pandemic; the number of encounters involving individuals in a family unit is down slightly from pre-pandemic levels.

During the event, the National Border Patrol Council endorsed Johnson’s re-election bid as he hopes to win a third term representing the Badger State in the Senate.

The group’s president, Brandon Judd, stressed what happens at the southern border has ripple effects that impact Wisconsin and other states.