Migrant arrivals along the US border soared to 221,000 in March, the highest tally since 2000

The number of migrant arrivals along the US southern border soared in March to its highest level since 2000, surpassing 200,000 for only the third time under the Biden administration, according to government statistics submitted on Friday. in federal court.

US Customs and Border Protection reported processing migrants 221,303 times along the Mexican border last month, surpassing the previous peak under the Biden administration in July 2021, when US authorities recorded 213 593 meetings with migrants, according to figures from the agency.

Nearly 210,000 encounters with migrants last month were recorded by CBP, which apprehends migrants who have entered the United States illegally. The last time Border Patrol monthly arrests were higher was in March 2000, when the agency reported 220,063 migrant arrests, according to CBP historical data.

The increase in border arrivals comes as the Biden administration prepares to reduce the Title 42 Pandemic Age Rules, which allowed US authorities to quickly deport migrants without processing their asylum claims. The policy, first instituted under the Trump administration, is due to expire on May 23.

Border Patrol agents arrest a group of migrants near the border wall, after entering the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico, bordering El Paso, Texas, February 3, 2022.

Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

US immigration authorities conducted 109,549 Title 42 deportations in March, accounting for nearly 50% of all migrant arrests. Around 111,000 migrants and asylum seekers who arrived last month were processed through regular immigration procedures, which allow them to apply for asylum.

Encounters recorded by CBP do not represent the number of migrants processed by the agency, as many cross-border commuters attempt to enter the United States multiple times. Since the start of the pandemic, the rate of repeat crossings has skyrocketed as some adult migrants attempt to enter the United States after being deported.

Single adults who are not deported are either detained, deported through a process known as expedited removal, or released with a notice to appear before a judge. In March, US authorities deported or returned 12,070 migrants who were processed through regular immigration procedures, according to government data.

Migrant families traveling with minor children who are not processed under Title 42 are usually released with court notices, sometimes with tracking devices, such as ankle monitors. Most unaccompanied children, who are exempt from Title 42, are transferred to government shelters inside the United States.

In March, US border officials released 65,771 migrants with a court notice or through a process known as parole, which allows them to admit foreigners on humanitarian grounds. Just over 24,000 migrants have been taken into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. About 9,000 people remained in ICE custody as of April 3.

The planned termination of Title 42 in late May has alarmed Republicans and some centrist Democrats, many of whom have tough re-election contests in November.

On Thursday, 18 states joined a lawsuit filed by Republican officials in Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri seeking to block the overturning of Title 42. Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott launched additional measures to challenge the Biden administration following the announcement of Title 42, ordering state officials to bus migrants in Washington, DC, and inspect commercial trucks entering the United States

In Congress, four moderate Democratic senators joined a group of Republicans to introduce a bill earlier this month that would require the administration to delay the end of Title 42 until after the national public health emergency over COVID- 19 if it was lifted.

Democratic critics of the decision to lift Title 42 have said they don’t believe the Department of Homeland Security is sufficiently prepared to respond to a potential spike in border arrivals when Title 42 deportations are halted.

But DHS officials said they have begun to prepare for the end of the policy, deploying additional Border Patrol agents, increasing capacity at migrant detention sites and securing more buses and passengers. planes to transport migrants and avoid overcrowding in processing facilities.

According to a DHS contingency plan, the department is preparing for worst-case scenarios in which between 12,000 and 18,000 migrants enter U.S. custody each day, an unprecedented increase from the current average of 7,000 daily arrests.

While some more centrist Democrats have joined Republicans in criticizing the end of Title 42, many Democrats have been calling for the policy to be terminated for months, citing the end or relaxation of other pandemic restrictions.

Progressive advocates also pointed out that the Trump administration first implemented Title 42 in March 2020 despite objections from public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who did not believe the extraordinary measure was necessary. to control the spread of the coronavirus.

In her termination order earlier this month, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Title 42 was no longer needed to protect public health due to the availability of coronavirus mitigation tools, the decline in infections since Omicron’s winter surge and increased vaccination rates in the United States and abroad. .

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