by Bethany Blankley
At least 815,786 people were apprehended or evaded law enforcement after illegally entering Arizona in fiscal 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent.
This is out of a record 3.3 million illegal entries reported by Border Patrol for all nine southwest border sectors in the fiscal year.
Border Patrol agents apprehended at least 591,536 foreign nationals and reported at least 224,250 known and recorded gotaways in Arizona’s two Border Patrol sectors of Tucson and Yuma.
Arizona shares 378 miles of border with Mexico, the majority of which – 262 miles –is in the Tucson Sector. The total shared U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles.
To put the number of illegal entries in perspective, at least 815,786 people known to Border Patrol agents who illegally entered Arizona from at least 150 countries in one fiscal year was greater than the population of every single city in Arizona except Phoenix.
The number of people was greater than the individual populations of Tucson, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Scottsdale, Peoria, Tempe and Surprise, Arizona’s nine largest cities after Phoenix.
Put another way, the numbers were enough to populate nearly 1.5 Tucsons, over 1.5 Mesas, nearly three Chandlers and Gilberts, over three Glendales and Scottsdales, over four Peorias and Tempes, and over 5.5 Surprises.
The number also dwarfed the populations of all Arizona counties except for Pima and Maricopa.
In the Tucson Sector, Border Patrol agents apprehended 264,727 illegal foreign nationals and reported 193,658 gotaways. In this sector, agents cover territory from the Yuma County line to the Arizona-New Mexico state line operating out of nine stations. The number who were apprehended and evaded law enforcement dwarfed the populations of the towns where Border Patrol stations are located excluding Tucson. They were enough to populate 7,052 Whys, 8 Casa Grandes, 24 Nogales, 178 Willcox’s, 584 Sonoitas, 106 Bisbees, 29 Douglas’s, and 95 Three Points.
In the Yuma Sector, Border Patrol agents apprehended 326,809 illegal foreign nationals and reported 30,592 gotaways. In this sector, agents cover nearly 182,000 square miles of primarily desert terrain from the Imperial Sand Dunes in California to the Yuma-Pima County line. Despite the harsh terrain of vast open desert, rocky mountain ranges and large drifting sand dunes, Yuma is seeing increasing numbers of people. Those entering illegally were enough to populate 20 Blythes, nearly 4 Yumas and 187 Welltons, the towns where Border Patrol stations are located.
The data evaluated only includes information compiled by Border Patrol agents and excludes Office of Field Operations data. If OFO data were included, the numbers would be higher.
Gotaways is the term used by Border Patrol to categorize those who illegally enter the U.S. in between ports of entry to evade capture by law enforcement. U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn’t publish the gotaway data. The Center Square obtains it from a Border Patrol agent who has access to CBP’s internal tracking system. The total is believed to be significantly higher because not all gotaways who evade capture are tracked or caught.
Law enforcement officers and Border Patrol agents have expressed the most concern about them because federal, state and local authorities don’t know who or where they are. These individuals, mostly single men of military age, didn’t enter seeking asylum or making other immigration claims. They also actively evade law enforcement as they make their way north. Many are believed to be working with cartels and gangs, engaging in human and drug trafficking, intent on committing other crimes in the U.S., law enforcement officers have told The Center Square.
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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square.