A Ten-Year Look at Inadmissible Migrants and Paroled Migrants at Ports of Entry
(12 Jan 2024) When noncitizens arrive at a port of entry, either along the border or at an international airport, border officials must assess whether each person can show documentation allowing them entry into the United States (i.e., whether they are admissible) or whether they are not admissible (i.e., inadmissible). If a border agent finds that a person is not admissible, there are provisions in the law that may allow that person to physically enter the country. One of these provisions, parole, allows the government to permit noncitizens to enter the country lawfully on a temporary basis and potentially receive work authorization.

According to case-by-case data TRAC obtained from Customs and Border Protection, the number of inadmissible immigrants arriving at ports of entry has increased substantially in recent years, as has the percent of those inadmissibles that have been allowed into the country under the parole authority.

Among all inadmissibles, paroled migrants accounted for the largest increase in recent years, increasing nearly four-fold from around 35,314 in FY 2019 to 130,016 in FY 2022. These numbers increased again to 301,069 in the first ten months of FY 2023. In percentage terms, this is not a record. Immigrants recorded as paroled into the country at a port of entry were higher in FY 2015 when numbers reached 40.5 percent.

The most common ports of entry for inadmissibles have changed over time. Contrary to popular understanding, ports of entry that receive inadmissible migrants are not necessarily located along the U.S.-Mexico border. For instance, in FY 2023, Office of Field Operations officials at U.S. ports of entry recorded the most inadmissibles (94,852) at Miami International Airport, Florida, followed by San Ysidro, California (78,781), and Brownsville, Texas (75,230).

Airports and other interior locations—not always ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border—appear to be the busiest locations for inadmissibles who are recorded at the port as being paroled into the country. In FY 2023, the top ten busiest ports of entry for parolees consisted entirely of airports and ports relatively far from either the northern or southern borders of the United States. Miami International Airport is the busiest airport for paroled migrants, followed by another Florida airport, Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. In third place is John F. Kennedy Airport.

Despite the growth in inadmissibles and people paroled, these numbers still make up a very small fraction – less than one-tenth of one percent – of the millions of people that currently arrive at ports of entry. In FY 2023, for instance, the Office of Field Operations reported 363.2 million arrivals for the year with an average of 30 million arrivals per month.

These data can be explored on TRAC’s Inadmissibles tool online.

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