U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conducted over 100,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants at the Southwest border in February, a massive increase from just 36,687 over the same period last year.
The U.S. took 100,441 accompanied minors, family units, single adults and unaccompanied alien children in custody last month, with the vast majority being single migrant adults at 71,598, according to the Southwest Border Land Encounters Report released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on Wednesday.
The number of families and unaccompanied minors continued to increase in February. Over 9,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended last month, increasing from 5,858 in January.
Of more than 19,000 illegal immigrant parents and children encountered at the border in February, almost 60 percent were processed under U.S. immigration law, with a large number seeking asylum or various forms of protection in American communities.
Apprehensions of migrant families in February skyrocketed by 163 percent over January, marking the highest month since September 2019.
“We continue to struggle with the number of individuals in our custody, especially given the pandemic,” acting CBP commissioner Troy Miller said on a call with reporters Wednesday, as CBS News reported.
The border agency said roughly 25,000 illegal immigrants apprehended in February have been encountered several times.
“We are seeing higher than usual recidivism rates as a result of COVID protocols,” a CBP official who requested anonymity said. “So the number of encounters, while they impact our operations at Border Patrol, they also can continue to overstate the migrant flows that we are seeing.”
Unaccompanied children entering the U.S. illegally also reached a 21-month high, posing significant challenges for President Joe Biden’s administration.
Over 3,200 migrant children were held in Border Patrol facilities on Monday, with nearly 1,400 being held beyond the 72-hour legal limit, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
The rapid increase in unaccompanied children is filling facilities “akin to jails” as Biden’s administration attempts to find room for the children in shelters, the documents said.
By law, unaccompanied children must be moved from border facilities to Department of Health and Human Services shelters within three days of detainment.
According to the Times, the border agency has come under fire for its federal detention facilities’ terrible conditions, which were originally built for adults, but now house children who are being exposed to disease, hunger, and overcrowding as a result.
Biden’s administration, as well as the president himself, continues to deny the existence of a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed concerns about the situation on the southern border, but “many of those [concerns] have not been based in fact.”
“So let me go through a few of those because I know we’re all interested in facts around here,” Psaki said. “Governor Abbott has referred to what is happening at the border as ‘open borders’ as us having an ‘open borders’ policy. That is absolutely incorrect.”
Also on Thursday, a suspected Mexican cartel member was seen masked while smuggling dozens of migrants across the Rio Grande into Texas in a video shared by a retired captain from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.