Authorities caught more than 171,000 migrants trying to enter the United States last month, the most in at least 15 years.
More than 171,000 migrants were caught attempting to cross the United States from Mexico in March, according to new border patrol data.
The number of apprehensions last month is the highest monthly total in at least 15 years and exceeds the pace of the latest wave in 2019 which peaked at 133,000 per month.
The data offers an alarming new measure of the reach of humanitarian challenge facing President Joe Biden on the southwestern border of the United States. Biden relaxed the harsh asylum and family separation policies of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
The total border apprehensions in March, shared by US officials with Reuters news outlet, include around 19,000 unaccompanied migrant children and 53,000 family members traveling together, according to preliminary figures. Single adults made up about 99,000 of the total.
Biden administration struggles to find accommodation for unaccompanied children crowded border stations and treatment centers for weeks.
The US government shelter system that houses children has been overwhelmed and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) scrambles to open emergency shelters, including sites in Dallas convention centers and San Diego.
The migration surge overwhelms the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service, causing up to 1,000 people a day to cross the United States without getting caught, The Washington Post reported, citing officials. familiar with the data.
To ease the pressure on the border patrol and its overcrowded detention facilities, the authorities free some migrant families without notice to appear in immigration court or sometimes without any paperwork.
A grainy video released on March 31 by border officials captures the desperation of parents and children trying to enter the United States. In a scene captured by a distant camera, a man drops two little girls, aged three and five, from the top of a 4.3-meter fence, according to the Associated Press.
In the video, a man lowers a child while holding an arm. The child swaying, he lets go. She lands on her feet, then falls head first into the dirt. The ferryman does the same with a slightly larger child, who falls on his feet and then on his buttocks. Then the smuggler and another man fled into the Mexican desert, the AP reported.
CBP has invested in remote cameras and surveillance technology that allows the agency to detect illegal crossings as they occur.
The two girls were found on high alert, taken to hospital and cleared of any physical injuries. As of April 1, they remained in a border patrol temporary detention facility pending their placement by HHS.
The girls’ mother is in the United States and authorities are in contact with her, a CBP spokesperson told the AP without providing further details.
President Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the administration’s response the growing number of migrants trying to enter the United States.
Harris has called the wave of unaccompanied children crossing the southern US border from Mexico a “huge problem” and said it would not be solved “overnight”.
Biden faced criticism of republicans, who blamed the US president for the increase in arrivals.