U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published new statistics on Thursday that show the highest monthly total of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in more than a decade.
In the month of March, 172,000 people attempted to enter the United States illegally along the Southwest border, far exceeding the 100,441 people who attempted to do so in February 2021. The new total represents a 71% increase in border crossers over the span of just one month.
On Monday, before the new numbers were released, White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced questions from reporters on preliminary numbers from CBP that suggested at least 171,000 individuals attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, far exceeding the 78,442 migrants who were encountered at the border in January when President Joe Biden first assumed office.
At the time, Psaki said the final numbers released by CBP would paint a fuller picture that would show high numbers of migrants being turned away as well. Now the numbers are out, and Americans have the full picture of the crisis at the border.
The monthly numbers for March far surpass any monthly numbers of border encounters recorded by the Trump administration and in fact are the highest monthly numbers recorded in 15 years, according to the Washington Examiner.
So far this year, CBP has encountered more than half a million people — 569,800 — at the U.S. border. Biden administration officials say this is a 24% increase from the total number of encounters CBP had in the entirety of fiscal year 2020 and an increase of 34 percent from all of FY 2019.
CBP says most of the encounters at the border are single adults, who are expelled from the country pursuant to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency reports that 103,900 individuals were turned away by Border Patrol in March and that 28% of those turned away were previously expelled from the United States.
Of the 172,000 people encountered, 60% were turned away.
"CBP has experienced an increase in encounters and arrests. This is not new. Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020, and our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year," said CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy Miller. "We are committed to balancing the need to maintain border security, care for those in our custody, and keep the American people and our workforce safe."
The number of unaccompanied migrant children encountered at the border dramatically increased in March to 18,890 children, an increase of 100% over February.
Children remain the largest demographic group held in CBP custody as President Joe Biden has directed his administration not to turn away unaccompanied minors who appear at the border seeking refuge in the United States. Those that are taken into custody by Border Patrol are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, which holds them at facilities in border states until they can be released to a sponsor already in the U.S.