Apprehensions of undocumented migrants on the US border with Mexico soared 70 percent in March to 172,331, hitting the highest level in 15 years, US Customs and Border Protection reported Thursday.
The number of unaccompanied children caught by CBP crossing the border doubled to 18,663, creating a challenge for authorities unprepared to care for that many children, who are being allowed to stay in the United States.
Another 227 were intercepted by immigration officials at official border crossings, taking the total of unaccompanied children to 18,890 in March, CBP said.
CBP said nearly 104,000 of the border crossers were expelled, mostly back into Mexico, under rules based on Covid-19 pandemic protections.
But the unaccompanied children and tens of thousands of migrants who arrived in family units with small children have been allowed to stay in the country, creating a large political and social headache for the young administration of President Joe Biden.
Most of the migrants were from Mexico and the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. CBP said many increasingly arrive in large groups.
CBP blamed the surge on “violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.”
“This is not new,” said Troy Miller, currently acting as CBP commissioner.
“Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020,” he said in a statement.