(The Center Square) – More than 500,000 people crossed the border illegally into California in fiscal 2023, according to official U.S. Customs and Border Protection data and preliminary gotaway data exclusively obtained by The Center Square.
This number is up from nearly 302,000 in fiscal 2022, which The Center Square reported last year.
The total includes 412,579 apprehensions officially reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and at least 101,314 gotaways reported by Border Patrol agents alone, according to preliminary data The Center Square obtained from a Border Patrol agent.
Combined, they total at least 513,892 illegal border crossers in fiscal 2023.
California shares the smallest portion of the Mexico border of 137 miles, nearly evenly split in terms of linear mileage between the El Centro and San Diego sectors.
In fiscal 2023, San Diego Sector agents reported the fifth-highest number of illegal entries along the southwest border. The top four CBP sectors reporting the highest apprehension and gotaway data were El Paso and Del Rio in Texas, followed by Tucson Sector in Arizona, and Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas.
San Diego Border Patrol agents apprehended 230,941 illegal border crossers and reported at least 97,520 gotaways, nearly half of those they apprehended, accounting for 42%.
They historically apprehend the largest number of people every month and year out of the two sectors.
San Diego Office of Field Operations agents working at ports of entry in the CBP San Diego OFO sector apprehended 131,068 illegal foreign nationals, the second highest of the OFO sectors behind Laredo’s 215,060 in Texas.
El Centro Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 50,570 people and reported 3,793 gotaways, according to the data.
The sectors’ combined apprehensions and gotaways total at least 513,892 illegal border crossers in fiscal 2023.
California’s over 500,000 illegal border crossers account for roughly 16% of all illegal border crossings nationwide, which reached nearly 4 million in fiscal 2023, as The Center Square previously reported.
They are included in the roughly 1.7 million gotaways who’ve illegally entered nationwide since President Joe Biden first took office. However, the number is estimated to be closer to 2 million, The Center Square previously reported.
“Gotaways” is the official CBP term defining those who illegally enter the U.S. primarily between ports of entry, intentionally seeking to evade capture by law enforcement, and who don’t turn back to Mexico or Canada. CBP doesn’t publicly report gotaway data. The Center Square has been reporting preliminary gotaway data every month after obtaining it from a Border Patrol agent on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
Gotaway totals are a minimum number only, officials have explained. Official data is still a best guess because agents aren’t able to report every gotaway for several reasons. Former Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz previously testified to Congress that gotaway data is underreported by between 10% and 20%.
Ultimately, law enforcement officials say they have no idea how many gotaways are in the U.S., where or who they are.