Migrant Crossings Increase Along Mexico Border Title 42 End Approaches – GV Wire
Migrants attempted to cross the US-Mexico border at the highest level in two decades, while the US braces for even larger numbers with the expected lifting of a pandemic-era order turning away asylum seekers.
According to US Customs and Border Protection data released Monday, immigration officials stopped migrants along the southwest border 221,303 times in March, a 33% increase from the previous month.
The new numbers came as the Biden administration comes under increasing pressure over the upcoming expiration of a health regulation that allowed US authorities to turn back most migrants, including people seeking asylum from persecution.
The number of encounters with migrants has risen almost every month since President Joe Biden took office, becoming fodder for political opponents who point to the increase as evidence that this administration is weaker than its predecessor when it comes to border security.
A backlog of people waiting outside the country for asylum-seekers and poor economic and political conditions in much of Latin America and the Caribbean are partly responsible for the surge in migrants. Administration critics blame Biden, arguing that his administration’s moves to reverse Trump-era policies have encouraged people to come.
The number of illegal crossings, or those outside official ports of entry, totaled 209,906 in March, surpassing the previous high of 200,658 under Biden’s presidency in July and the highest since March 2000, when it reached 220,063.
Former President Donald Trump also faced a sharp increase in border crossings by migrants, but the number fell sharply when the pandemic began. In March 2020, the previous administration invoked Title 42, a little-used public health agency, to quickly expel almost anyone found at the southwest border.
US authorities have expelled migrants more than 1.7 million times under Title 42, named after a 1944 public health law, and used the threat of COVID-19 to deny migrants the ability to seek asylum , as required by US law and international treaties.
With COVID-19 cases declining, the Biden administration has announced it will end the use of Title 42 at the border on May 23.
Several moderate Democrats have joined Republican leaders in calling for an expansion of Title 42’s authority. Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat who is up for election this year, toured the border last week and warned that the Biden administration is unprepared for asylum restrictions to be lifted.
Human rights groups and other migrant advocates say the US has a legal obligation to grant people asylum and are calling for the public health order to be overturned. “The United States can and must welcome asylum seekers because it is the law, because it is right, and because we can,” the Catholic Legal Immigration Network said in a statement Monday celebrating Holy Week.
The rapid Title 42 expulsions are a key part of the recent increases. Migrants are turned back with no legal consequences, and many simply try to cross the border again and are therefore counted more than once in the total.
According to CBP, the number of individuals encountered nationwide in March was 159,900, a 37% increase from the previous month.
More than half of the 221,303 people detained were quickly turned away without an opportunity to seek asylum, either to Mexico or to their home countries, according to data presented to a federal court in Texas in a Biden immigration challenge. Government guidelines were transmitted by this state.
CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement that the agency plans to deploy additional staff to the southwest border to deal with the “likely” surge expected if Title 42 is lifted.
Most others have been processed by immigration, known as Title 8, and their ultimate fate varies. About 34,000 have been allowed to remain in the US on parole, allowing them to seek asylum or legal residency through other avenues. If they don’t succeed, they face deportation.
Mexicans made up the largest group by nationality of those encountered at the border, followed by Cubans. The number of Ukrainians allowed to enter the country, generally on humanitarian grounds, rose to over 200 in March from just 5 in November.