Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
During Joe Biden’s presidency, U.S. immigration authorities have encountered migrants about 7.2 million times at and between ports of entry. But that figure doesn’t show how many migrants entered and remained in the country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s encounter data tracks events, not people, and the same person can be recorded multiple times for repeated attempts to cross the border.
The encounter data also does not reflect expulsions. From February 2021 to May 2023, there were about 2.5 million expulsions under Title 42, a COVID-19 pandemic-era policy that allowed officials to quickly expel migrants. Besides the Title 42 removals, about 591,000 removals have been initiated by border authorities during Biden’s tenure.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently vowed that, if elected president, he will deport all migrants who have entered the U.S. illegally under President Joe Biden.
"Everyone that has come illegally under Biden, we gotta, we’ll send them back. That’s going to be first priority," DeSantis said at a Sept. 29 campaign event in California. "That’s probably 6 or 7 million people right there. It’s going to require a lot of effort."
But DeSantis is conflating the number of times border patrol agents have encountered migrants at the border with the number of migrants who entered and remain in the country, an error also made by others who previously vied for the Republican presidential nomination.
When contacted for comment, DeSantis’ campaign pointed us to his immigration policy, which outlines broad plans to handle deportations, including hiring "more border patrol agents and more removal agents" and allowing "ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers to do their jobs."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that the figures DeSantis cited are close to the nationwide number of migrant encounters at and between ports of entry since Biden took office. But that figure doesn’t show how many migrants remained in the U.S.
Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20, 2021. From February 2021 through August 2023, there were about 7.2 million encounters across all points of entry nationwide, CBP’s data shows.
Encounter data does not reflect the number of individual immigrants stopped. For example, if one person tries to cross the border three times and is stopped each time, that would be counted as three encounters.
The data also does not reflect expulsions.
"The CBP encounters include nearly 3 million expulsions — in other words, enforcement activity that ensures people do not remain in the United States," said Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.
Mittelstadt also said some people apprehended at the border are initially detained and eventually removed from the country.
CBP data confirms Mittelstadt’s point that millions of encounters led to removals. From February 2021 to May 2023, there were about 2.5 million expulsions under Title 42, a COVID-19 pandemic-era policy that allowed border officials to quickly expel migrants who crossed the southwest border. Besides the Title 42 removals, CBP data shows there have been about 591,000 removals initiated by border authorities during Biden’s tenure.
There is no available data that shows the number of migrants who have been allowed to stay in the country after entering.
PolitiFact reached out to CBP and the Department of Homeland Security but did not receive a reply.
DeSantis is not the only Republican presidential candidate who has promised mass deportations; Former President Donald Trump also made that promise during his tenure, and we rated it Promise Broken.
The highest number of deportations in a single year came in 2013, when the Obama administration deported around 438,000 people.
Experts say that instituting mass deportations is easier said than done.
"Deporting millions of people summarily is an implausible and fantastical idea that has been brought forward from time to time for political purposes only," said Mario Russell, the executive director at the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank.
"It is not practical or achievable as it would require a huge increase in enforcement resources, court expenditures and more," said Russell.
DeSantis said 6 million or 7 million people have "come illegally under Biden."
His estimate misrepresents the data. Since Biden took office, border patrol agents have encountered migrants about 7.2 million times at and between ports of entry. But that doesn’t mean that many migrants entered and remained in the U.S. That data shows events, not individuals, and one person can be recorded multiple times.
CBP data also shows that millions of encounters led to removals.
DeSantis’ statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Ron DeSantis speech in Long Beach, California, Sept. 29, 2023
PolitiFact, Fact-check: Did Fox News debate moderators paint an accurate picture of America?, August 25, 2023
PolitiFact, Francis Suarez’s misleading claim about millions of migrants getting free cellphones, plane tickets, July 28, 2023
PolitiFact, Title 42 expiration: What's next for migrants applying for asylum at US’ southern border?, May 8, 2023
RonDeSantis.com, STOP THE INVASION, Accessed Oct. 3, 2023
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nationwide Encounters, accessed Oct. 3, 2023
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Custody and Transfer Statistics FY2023, Accessed Oct. 3, 2023
PolitiFact, Donald Trump does not keep promise to deport all immigrants illegally in the US, July 15, 2020
Pew Research, U.S. deportations of immigrants reach record high in 2013, Oct. 2, 2014
The New York Times, With Unrealistic Immigration Proposals, DeSantis and Trump Try to Outdo Each Other, Oct. 1, 2023
Migration Policy Institute, Mounting Backlogs Undermine U.S. Immigration System and Impede Biden Policy Changes, Feb. 23, 2022
Migration Policy Institute, In the Twilight Zone: Record Number of U.S. Immigrants Are in Limbo Statuses, Aug. 2, 2023
C-SPAN, Department of Homeland Security Oversight Hearing, April 28, 2022
Pew Research, Key facts about the changing U.S. unauthorized immigrant population, April 13, 2021
The White House, Immigration Fact Check: Responding to Key Myths, June 22, 2007
Email interview with Mario Russell, Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies, Oct. 2, 2023
Email interview, Michelle Mittelstadt, communications directors at the Migration Policy Institute, Oct. 3, 2023
Email interview, Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Ron DeSantis campaign, Oct. 3, 2023
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.