The following is adapted from a talk delivered on January 22, 2024, at the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship on Hillsdale’s Washington, D.C., campus, as part of the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series.

In 1960, the Eisenhower administration began counting the number of foreign nationals “apprehended” or “encountered” by what was then called the U.S. Border Control when crossing into the U.S. over its southern border with Mexico. These figures have been published and closely monitored through the years, and there has never been anything like the numbers we are seeing now. A human tsunami of previously unfathomable size—Border Patrol has had to handle more than 7.6 million border crossers in 36 months—has smashed every record, with each year’s numbers exceeding the previous year’s record in stair-stepping fashion.

Of the over 7.6 million illegals encountered by Border Patrol since January 2021, the number allowed to stay inside the U.S. is somewhere north of five million. But with the percentage of those allowed to stay now approaching 100 percent, if current trends hold, the total allowed to remain in the U.S. under the Biden administration will reach ten million by next January.

The U.S. has experienced surges of illegal immigration in the past, but these have been brought quickly under control by implementing policies to deter, block, detain, and deport illegal immigrants. Not this time. To put the current numbers in perspective, consider that Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s Director of Homeland Security, told MSNBC that in his time in office—when the number of illegal crossings was relatively low—he considered it bad if apprehensions exceeded 1,000 a day, because anything more than that “overwhelms the system.” Over the past three years, apprehensions have averaged about 6,940 per day.

Even with a surge in illegal crossings in 2019—this was due to a legal loophole that encouraged illegals to cross with minors—the Trump administration had brought apprehensions down to between 800 and 1,500 a day in his final year in office, the lowest numbers in 45 years. Four months into the Biden administration, apprehensions spiked to about 6,000 per day. There were 2.4 million apprehensions in 2022, a daily average of 6,575. In 2023 there were three million apprehensions, a daily average of 8,219. Entering 2024, apprehensions were up to 12,000 to 15,000 per day.

The reality is even worse, because these numbers do not include the people who entered the U.S. illegally without being apprehended—sometimes referred to as “gotaways”—a number the Border Patrol estimates but does not make public. That estimate over the past three years is two million, bringing the three-year total of illegal immigrants to ten million—a number equivalent to the population of Greater London or Greater Chicago.

But these are just numbers. Who are these people? They are internationally diverse: 45 percent come from 170 countries outside the traditional origin countries of Mexico and Central America. Many are unaccompanied minors: 448,000 to date. More than 330 as of November 2023 are on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. Many are murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and violent criminals. More than a million have been lawfully ordered deported by judges in the U.S. but remain in our country regardless. The dismissal by the executive branch of our government of hundreds of thousands of cases of immigration law violations is unprecedented.