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New Data Sheds Light on What Happens to People Found Inadmissible at U.S. Ports of Entry

Published Aug 9, 2022

People arriving at each of the more than 300 U.S. ports of entry must be inspected by Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers employed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before being allowed into the country. As a result of this inspection, over the past decade CBP officers working at ports of entry have determined over 3 million times that individuals before them were “inadmissible”[1] because they lacked the proper authorization to enter the country.

Figure 1 displays a month-by-month plot of how the number of inadmissibles has varied across time, including a sharp decline as soon as President Trump assumed office in January of 2017, the drop off after the pandemic hit and Covid-Title 42 expulsions began, and the latest rise and peak of 54,212 inadmissibles in April of this year.[2]

Figure 1. Individuals Stopped at U.S. Ports of Entry, June 2012 - June 2022

These data represent findings of inadmissibility at ports of entry, and do not reflect encounters by Border Patrol officers between ports of entry.[3] These case-by-case internal agency data were analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University after being obtained through a series of Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests which TRAC has submitted monthly since 2018.

Who Were These Individuals?

Single adults predominated. However, there were 418,000 individuals who were part of a family unit and an additional 98,000 who were unaccompanied minors.

Given the high volume of traffic of Canadians and Mexicans into the U.S. for many reasons (e.g., work, visiting friends and relatives, shopping, relaxation), it is not surprising that citizens of these two countries rank towards the top among these inadmissible stops. Inadmissibles from Mexico top the list with 736,501 (24%) and inadmissibles from Canada rank third with 284,308 (9%). But ranking above Canada with 386,006 (12%) are people from the Philippines.

Why the Philippines? This illustrates how aggregate numbers can be surprising, and without additional details, can be misleading. Fortunately, the latest case-by-case internal CBP records[4] provide many details to help answer this as well as many other questions.

Citizens of Philippines are so commonly found inadmissible because crew members making a temporary stop to unload people or cargo are one of the largest categories included in CBP’s data on inspections at ports of entry. When these crew members don’t have documentation that would allow them to enter the country, they are typically required to stay confined or on board during their stopover, until their ship, plane, or other transport departs. Citizens of the Philippines are a dominant component (38%) of these crews.[5]

Data about crew members shapes how we view these data. Once crew members are eliminated from inadmissible counts, the Philippines is no longer so highly represented among inadmissibles and the top three countries are Mexico, Canada and Cuba out of 2.2 million cases between October 2011 and June 2022.

Cubans, in third place, comprise 262,088 (12%) of inadmissibles, and are three and a half times more numerous than Guatemalans, the next nationality group. Over the past decade, these three countries—Mexico, Canada, and Cuba—account for the majority (57%) of non-crew inadmissibles.

Inadmissibles and Expulsions Who Are Prevented from Entering the Country

Once an individual is stopped at a U.S. port of entry, officers who work for CBP’s Office of Field Operations must decide how they should be processed. A total of 73,000 individuals out of 2.2 million were immediately expelled under the provisions of Title 42. Almost of all these were single adults, although there were around 5,600 accompanied minors and 340 unaccompanied minors. Two-thirds were Mexicans, followed by Canadians, Indians and Chinese with much smaller numbers.

CBP officers turned additional people away because they don’t have proper documentation. Over a half million individuals (25%) were allowed to withdraw their request to enter the country without penalization. See Table 1 below. Canadians and Mexicans dominate this group of withdrawals. However, individuals from India, China, and Iran—countries outside the Western Hemisphere—complete the top five nationalities allowed to withdraw their application to enter.

Another segment who are turned away are from countries where having a visa is normally waived under the Visa Waiver Program. Nonetheless, some of these people are still classified as inadmissible and turned away. The top five countries here are Spain, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, and France.

Some 13 percent of people are not allowed to withdraw their request for admission. Instead, these individuals are issued an expedited removal order, or in rare circumstances, a reinstatement of a prior removal order. These bar them from reentry, typically for five years. An additional 1 percent although subject to removal are allowed to take voluntary departure and in that way escape being barred from legal reentry.

The consequences of being found inadmissible and turned away are shaped by nationality. As mentioned above, Canadians followed by Mexicans predominate on those allowed to voluntarily withdraw. However, Canadians drop to 10th place in the frequency with which formal deportation occurs. In contrast, Mexicans dominate those formally removed. Countries all with much smaller numbers in the top five after Mexico who are formally deported are Columbia, Guatemala, Haiti, and Venezuela.

Taken together these groups who are refused entry into the country account for 47 percent of the 2.2 million initially stopped at ports of entry. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. U.S. Port Official Decisions on Whether "Inadmissibles" Were Refused Entry or Allowed Into The Country

Inadmissible and Permitted to Enter the Country

That also means that slightly more than half (53%) are not ultimately refused entry and are allowed to enter the country. This generally occurs for one of three primary reasons. Details are shown in Table 1 below.

The most common way for someone who is inadmissible at a port of entry to enter the United States is through what is called “parole”. Twenty-nine (29) percent are allowed in under this provision. While not formally admitted, these individuals were allowed to enter and temporarily remain in the U.S. Parole is often granted for humanitarian or public policy reasons.

For a long time, Cubans tended to be the majority of those paroled into the country. During the past decade, relatively few Cubans have been turned away at U.S. ports of entry or expelled at ports under Title 42. However, Cuban parolees were more common during the period starting in December 2012 and continued through December 2016, after which Cuban parolees declined sharply. Before and after this period instead of being paroled Cubans were issued a NTA and referred to Immigration Court, or (during the Trump administration) referred for credible fear proceedings.

After Cubans, Mexicans and Canadians are the next largest groups of parolees. In fourth and fifth place, close behind Canadians numerically are inadmissibles from Ukraine and India. Indians paroled each month into the U.S. are relatively small in number, but they have been a persistent presence throughout the last decade so that their total numbers add up. Ukrainians in contrast show an entirely different pattern. Very few were seen until Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year. Then a waive of arrivals occurred and have continued through June 2022, the latest month of data now available.[6]

Aside from parole, there are two other main ways in which someone initially found inadmissible may enter the country. First, port officials may issue a Notice to Appear (NTA), which refers them to a hearing before the Immigration Courts.[7] Second, port officers may refer the individual for a credible fear interview with a representative of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Immigration Court proceedings and a credible fear interview may both take place while the individual remains detained; thus physically entering the country does not necessarily mean that the individual is free. See Table 1.

Mexicans dominate both of these latter two groups. Smaller numbers from Guatemala also received NTAs, while Cubans and individual from Honduras also are more likely to get either an NTA or be referred for credible fear proceedings.

Table 1. U.S. Port Officials Disposition Decisions on Inadmissibles,* October 2011-June 2022
Port Disposition Position Number Percent
Paroled 641,693 28.6%
Withdrawal 568,254 25.3%
Notice to Appear in Imm. Court 382,786 17.1%
Expedited Removal 294,049 13.1%
Expedited Removal - Credible Fear** 158,420 7.1%
Visa Waiver Program 83,031 3.7%
Title 42 Expulsions 72,974 3.3%
Voluntary Departure and Return 25,921 1.2%
Reinstatement of Removal 5,547 0.2%
Other 11,201 0.5%
Total (excludes crew members) 2,243,876 100.0%
* includes Title 42 expulsions.
** referred to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Tracking Those Stopped at Ports of Entry

Accompanying this report, is the release of a brand new free web query tool which allows the public to drill more deeply into these results. Available for the first time are details on just how many individuals are found to be inadmissible month-by-month from October 2011 through June 2022, and where these are occurring (which port field office).

The specific reason individuals are stopped as inadmissible are included from CBP’s complete list of ~70 reasons used. The corresponding equally detailed reasons for the OFO officer’s decision on how each individual should be then handled (“disposed of”) that provide the justification for turning them away, or letting them into the country, is available. Reasons include, for example, the specific reason for awarding parole, such as the Cuban Adjustment Act, Central American Minor, Operation Allies Refuge Parole, Haitian Family Reunification, Filipino World War II Veterans Parole, and the Ukrainian Humanitarian Parole/Uniting for Ukraine.

Details are also available on the inadmissibles from each of 240 different countries, along with their age and gender. When individuals arrive as part of a family group or as an unaccompanied juvenile is identified, along with who claimed credible fear or reasonable fear.

This tool joins a parallel tool providing details on each apprehension between U.S. Ports of Entry. See Border Patrol Arrests. TRAC's "Stopped at U.S. Ports of Entry" tool is the latest addition to TRAC's other valuable data tools on immigration enforcement available to the public

[1]^ Strictly speaking, CBP doesn’t include Title 42 expulsions within inadmissibles. For this report, where data are available, totals include Title 42 expulsions. Figure 1 and Table 1 identify the separate contribution of Title 42 expulsions to these totals.
[2]^ Concerning the peak numbers during April of this year, see May 17, 2022, TRAC Report, “Ukrainians at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Seeking Admission at U.S. Ports of Entry.”
[3]^ For Border Patrol apprehensions, see separate data series compiled by TRAC.
[4]^ TRAC has sought similar case-by-case data on Title 42 expulsions. While it has received these case-by-case internal records for expulsions by the Border Patrol, it has not yet received the data for those at ports of entry. This report is able to include Title 42 expulsions at ports where the agency has published relevant aggregate numbers.
[5]^ While this is the main reason, there are others. Indeed, Filipinos are still in the top ten (actually 9th) among nationalities for inadmissibles after restricting the count to eliminate crew members.
[6]^ See earlier footnote 2.
[7]^ Since special Immigration Courts were set up at the border with Mexico, some individuals issued a NTA were not actually allowed into the U.S. but were required to “Remain in Mexico” to await their court hearing(s). This CBP data does not separately identify those issued a NTA who were required to remain in Mexico.
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.