U.S. Customs and Border Patrol made almost 78,000 arrests and detentions on the Mexico border in January, according to internal statistics reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday.
The figure marks the highest number of arrests for illegal border crossings in the month of January in the past decade. Illegal crossings also rose six percent from December 2020, the first time since 2013 that crossings rose between December and January.
Additionally, Border Patrol deputy chief Raul Ortiz said on a podcast that on Sunday alone, around 1,000 people crossed the border who agents were not able to detain.
“Since April 2020, CBP has seen a steady increase in border encounters from the Western Hemisphere due to worsening economic conditions brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic and natural disasters impacting the area,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
The influx of migrants is already being reported by aid groups and activists working along the U.S.-Mexico border, and threatens to balloon into a major crisis for the Biden administration. President Biden has announced changes to a number of immigration restrictions enacted by the Trump administration, but has warned potential migrants against attempting to enter the U.S.
Uncertainty over policy changes has reportedly led to confusion among migrants already making the journey to the U.S.
“The migrants are starting not to trust advocates because we told them the Biden administration would start processing them shortly after inauguration — because that was the impression we were getting from the transition team,” lawyer Erika Pinheiro, who works with Al Otro Lado, told The New York Times on Saturday. (Al Otro Lado provides legal services to migrants and refugees in the U.S. and Tijuana.)
“After the executive orders came out with no substantive information, many of the migrants are angry with us and have started listening to smugglers and wild rumors,” Pinheiro added.