The number of migrant families illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has risen to levels not seen since before the coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 7,260 people crossing the border as families during the month of January, an amount comparable to December 2019, according to Border Patrol statistics. Over 5,000 unaccompanied minors were arrested in January, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
This despite a warning from Biden administration officials that migrants should not make the journey to the U.S.
Border towns in southern U.S. states are seeing an increase in the number of migrants, some of whom are arrested by Border Patrol but released into the towns because of crowding at holding facilities. The U.S. is also having difficulty returning families to Mexico, because of a recently-passed law that mandates migrant families to remain in government-run shelters. Once those shelters reach capacity, Mexico can refuse to accept migrant families scheduled for deportation by the U.S.
Additionally, some migrants are crossing into the U.S. because of perceived looser immigration policies implemented by the Biden administration. President Biden has reversed some Trump administration policies, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy ordering asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S.
“We came now in part because of the law change,” Dennis Chaveco Velazquez, a Cuban asylum seeker, told the Journal. Velazquez and Diana Cruz Batan crossed into Mexico in 2019 while Diana was pregnant. Both spent 14 months in Ciudad Acuña on the Mexico-Texas border before crossing into the U.S., along with their now nine-month-old daughter.
While immigration law code has not been changed since Biden assumed office, the administration proposed a sweeping reform bill on Thursday that would provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants present in the U.S. before 2021. Migrants would become eligible for a five-year residency, after which they could apply for a green card and become a citizen within eight years total.