A border official on Tuesday told reporters that he expects Border Patrol to have more than a million migrant encounters in 2021 — the latest indication of the scale of the escalating crisis at the southern border that the Biden administration faces.
Texas Deputy Border Chief Raul Ortiz told pool reporters that he “fully expects” Border Patrol to encounter more than a million migrants this year.
INSIDE THE BORDER CRISIS: PRESS TOUR PACKED TEXAS FACILITY WITH 4,000+ MIGRANTS
In February, there were more than 100,000 migrant encounters in February, and there is little sign that that rate is slowing down — with peak migration season coming before June.
While the administration has noted that many of those encountered are single adults, and therefore able to be swiftly returned under Title 42 health protections, those that arrive as part of a family unit or who are unaccompanied children are not so easily returned.
Some migrant families can be returned under Title 42, but Mexico has been refusing to take back families with tender-age children, meaning families are being held in the U.S. or released into the interior.
There are currently more than 5,000 unaccompanied children in Customs and Border Protection custody and more than 11,000 in Health and Human Services custody.
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Some of those minors were seen by reporters on Tuesday, when press was allowed in to view a migrant facility in Donna, Texas, which is at 1700 percent capacity — with more than 3,400 children in custody.
Eight “pods” were seen — each containing 500-600 migrants. Guidelines say there should only be 32 migrants in each pod. Donna’s temporary facility is 140,000 square feet.
The images, as well as indications that the border crisis will not abate any time soon, is continuing to increase pressure on the Biden administration to act. The administration has claimed it is not facing a “crisis” but calling it a “challenge” instead — a claim rejected by Republicans.
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“It is a humanitarian disaster and crisis,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led a delegation to Donna last week, said on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday. “And it’s man-made. Joe Biden caused this by political decisions made in the opening weeks of his administration.”
Critics have blamed the ending of Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — which kept migrants in Mexico — and the halting of border wall construction for giving a green light to migrants to make the journey north. The administration has blamed the prior administration for dismantling legal pathways for asylum.
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“What we’re working to do is put in place steps and actions to help address the situation at the border, including…expediting processing and opening up additional shelters, but also reinstituting policies like the Central American Minors Program to encourage young people to apply in their country and not make that treacherous journey,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.
“We are also in a circumstance where we are digging out of a broken system over the past four years — not just the inhumane policies, but the fact that there were never efforts put in place to look for and seek shelters where these children could be safely and humanely housed,” she said.