Migrant encounters rise above 180K in May as border crisis continues

More than 180,000 migrants were encountered attempting to get into the U.S. via the southern border in May alone, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Wednesday — the latest sign of a continued and unrelenting crisis at the southern border.

CBP said that 180,034 migrants were encountered along the border, an increase over the 178,000 encountered in April and 173,000 were encountered in March – all representing the highest numbers in years. March saw a big increase from the 100,000 migrants encountered in February.

The numbers are even more staggering compared to previous years. May 2020 saw just over 23,000 migrant encounters, with approximately 144,000 in May 2019.

The surge in migration has overwhelmed border officials and led to the Biden administration scrambling to set up facilities at the border and elsewhere in the U.S. It has been releasing migrant family units into the interior, often without court dates, due to Mexico’s refusal to take back families with small children.

CBP noted that many of those encountered were expelled via Title 42 public health protections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 180,000 encountered, 112,302 were expelled via Title 42, many of them single adults. The agency also noted that Title 42 expulsions have led to an increase in encounters as migrants are more likely to make multiple attempts to gain entry into the U.S.

The number of unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle dropped by 23 percent but remained very high, with 10,765 encountered compared to the 13,940 encountered in April. The Biden administration has touted its success in emptying Border Patrol facilities where unaccompanied kids were housed in past months, sending them to Heath and Human Services facilities instead.

The Biden administration has come under heavy fire for its handling of the crisis, with critics blaming the rollback of Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and the construction of the border wall, as well as a more welcoming message to migrants, for the surge in numbers.

The administration has pushed back on that claim and has instead emphasized the “root causes” of the crisis in Central America like poverty, violence and even climate change.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tasked by President Biden in March with handling the diplomatic outreach to Mexico and Northern Triangle countries, has just returned from a two-day trip to the region — where she had issued a stern warning to migrants considering making the trip to the U.S.

“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home, at the same time I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making the dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border — do not come, do not come,” she said.

“The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,” she said. “There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration and I believe if you come to our border you will be turned back.”

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