Apprehensions at the U.S.–Mexico border reached a 15-year high in March, with Border Patrol agents taking more than 171,000 migrants into custody, according to a new report.
The figure represents a sharp increase from the 78,442 migrants apprehended in January, according to preliminary U.S. Customs and Border Protection data published by the Washington Post, as the Biden administration struggles to get a handle on the influx of migrants — especially unaccompanied minors — attempting to enter the country.
Customs and Border Patrol took in more than 18,800 unaccompanied minors in March, a 99 percent increase from the month prior. The previous one-month high, recorded in May 2019, was 11,861.
The number of migrants arriving as part of family groups surged to more than 53,000 last month from 19,246 in February and 7,294 in January, the report shows.
Though President Biden said last month’s increases were similar to historic seasonal patterns as well as trends seen during the previous administration, the report notes that the “the precipitous influx during the first two months of his term has a more vertical growth curve than any comparable span over the past two decades.”
While the largest two-month increase in 2019 was roughly 45,000 in raw numbers, the period of the past two months has seen a rise of more than 90,000.
Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month that the agency is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”
“We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children. We have more work to do,” Mayorkas said then.
The administration is using the Title 42 public-health order to quickly send most adult migrants to Mexico. However, the expulsion has encouraged migrants to attempt repeat crossings.
While CBP detained more than 99,000 single adults last month, officials say 30 to 40 percent of the adults they apprehend are recidivist crossers.