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Migrant encounters at the southern border in February were 63% higher than the same time last year, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data released Tuesday, with more than 160,000 encounters by border authorities.
There were 164,973 encounters in February, compared to 101,099 encounters in February last year — a month that preceded a massive surge in numbers in the spring and summer months that overwhelmed Border Patrol but that the administration denied was a crisis. In February 2020 there were just 36,687 encounters.
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Numbers have decreased since August, but remained high compared to past years. There were 153,941 migrant encounters in Jan. 2022 compared to 78,414 migrant encounters in Jan. 2021. February marks a 7% increase over January’s numbers.
So far in FY 2022, which began in October, there have been 838,685 migrant encounters. In all of FY 2021 there were 1.7 million, and in FY 2020 there were 458,088 encounters.
The numbers show that 55% of all migrants encountered were expelled via Title 42 public health protections that were implemented during the Trump administration — 66% of single adults and just 29% of all family units were removed.
Meanwhile, there were 12,011 unaccompanied children encountered at the border, up from 9,4022 in February last year, and 8,760 in January. The Biden administration has exempted unaccompanied children from Title 42 removals, but a recent court order ordered the administration to end that exemption.
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“CBP’s February Monthly Operational Update reflects the continued economic rebound from the depths of the COVID pandemic, with CBP officers processing more than 2.8 million shipments in legitimate trade valued at more than $236 billion,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “February also registered a slight uptick in the number of encounters along the Southwest border, with most individuals arriving from Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the majority of noncitizens expelled under Title 42.”
The Biden administration has blamed “root causes” such as violence, poverty and climate change for the surge, but Republicans have instead blamed the administration’s policies — including ending the border wall, reduced interior enforcement and the ending of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)
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MPP, known as the Remain-in-Mexico policy, saw migrants held in Mexico for their hearings rather than allowed into the U.S. The Biden administration ended the program, but that was reversed by a federal court. The administration has since begun to reimplement that program, but has pledged to end it as soon as it is able to.
But even with the numbers remaining high at the border, the Biden administration has been under pressure to end Title 42 altogether from Democrats and left-wing immigration activists.
“Title 42 has been nothing short of disastrous for immigrant families seeking asylum from the horrors in their own countries,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said in a call with reporters last week, according to Border Report. “It is unacceptable that this policy continues to be used indiscriminately to remove migrants with valid refugee claims from our Southern border.”
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But that has reportedly raised concerns within the administration that ending Title 42 could again strain border resources and lead to yet more migrants hitting the border. Republicans have shared those fears.
“There is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding right now on our southern border and the only law that’s helping is Title 42,” Rep. Jim Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, tweeted. “Joe Biden plans to end Title 42.”