More than 172,000 people attempted to come across the border from Mexico illegally in March, marking the highest monthly total in 15 years and five times greater than the amount seen last March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s first 100 days have been overtaken by the situation at the border, which Republicans have unsuccessfully urged him to declare a “crisis.” Biden has yet to visit the southern border since moving into the White House and has been focused on economic recovery and infrastructure as the government rolls out coronavirus vaccines nationwide.
Ninety-seven percent of the 172,000 tried to get across in between land ports of entry where Border Patrol agents work, while the several thousand others were denied entry at the official crossings where vehicles and pedestrians are supposed to be inspected before entering the United States, Biden administration officials told reporters in a call Thursday.
Approximately 78,000 were encountered at the southern border in January, which was higher than normal. Those numbers have only risen since then, passing 100,000 in February and now reaching levels not seen since the George W. Bush administration in 2006. Mexican men made up most of the people encountered in 2006 versus the tens of thousands of families and children from other countries arriving in high numbers now, presenting a new challenge for the Biden administration, which has been reluctant to detain migrants.
The number of Central American children who came across without a parent or guardian rose to a record high of 18,890 in March. The previous record of 11,861 was set in May 2019. The Biden administration in late January opted not to continue immediately turning away unaccompanied children as had been the Trump administration’s policy for adults, families, and children since March 2020 in an effort to avoid filling government holding facilities with people during the pandemic. As a result, the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border has surged from 5,700 in January — more than triple that number now.
“We have made significant progress, and we have taken action since Jan. 20,” said one administration official. “We have added thousands of beds for unaccompanied children. We have leveraged thousands of federal government and outside volunteers. We have sent millions in humanitarian aid to Central America to address the hurricane, hunger, and violence in the region. We have adjusted and created new policies to increase the throughput of kids.”
Children found on the border are initially taken into custody by Border Patrol before being turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has stood up a dozen influx facilities in border states to hold children while the government searches for a sponsor in the country to release them to.
The number of people who arrived as part of a family group also rose in March to more than 53,000, up from approximately 7.300 in January. Families are still being immediately returned south of the border or flown to their countries of origin, but the government is having a challenging time doing so in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where Mexican law in the state of Tamaulipas forbids the U.S. from returning families with children under the age of 7.
The remainder of illegal crossings were single adults: 99,000. In January, it stood at 62,000. Between the families and adults, 103,000 were “expelled” under the Title 42 policy instead of being taken into custody. A Biden official added that 28% of single adults and members of families tried more than once in March to sneak into the country.
Author : Anna Giaritelli
Source : Washington Examiner : 172,000 tried to cross border illegally in March, the most in 15 years
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