President Biden last month downplayed the surge in migrants coming to the southern border, saying surges happen “every year” — but while that is the case, the numbers released Thursday show that the current surge is dwarfing anything in recent memory.
“The truth of the matter is: Nothing has changed,” Biden had said at a news conference. “It happens every single, solitary year: There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.”
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There are frequently increases in migration toward the end of winter and beginning of spring — with officials sometimes speaking about “migration season.” The peak is often around May, at which point numbers begin to drop off.
However, the numbers being encountered during the Biden administration are not something that happens every year. Over 172,000 migrants were encountered in March, the highest number in nearly twenty years. While many were single adults, that number included 18,890 unaccompanied children — a 100% increase from the already high numbers encountered in February, and the largest monthly number ever recorded.
Reporters and commentators noted that the numbers, which are outstripping even the highs of the 2019 crisis even with the peak likely still months away — hurt the Biden claim that it was a normal surge.
“Well, I guess the Biden White House line that this is the usual annual migration surge at the border is no longer operative,” Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler tweeted.
The Post followed up with an analysis that said, while there have been surges in the past, “the implication that what was underway at the border was therefore business as usual, though, doesn’t really hold up.”
Meanwhile, former Trump DHS official Ken Cuccinelli pointed to comments made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki that migration surges are often “seasonal” and “cyclical.”
“Woops. That lie seems to have been over run by reality…” he tweeted.
While single adults and family units can be returned via Title 42 public health protections, the administration has not been applying it to unaccompanied children — which critics have said has fueled the surge in children, many of them being dumped and abandoned at the border by smugglers.
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Meanwhile, Mexico has been refusing to take back family units with children under the age of seven. The result has been a re-introduction of so-called “catch-and-release” policies by which some migrants are released into the interior, and pictures have emerged of packed facilities for migrant children.
In March, 103,900 individuals were expelled under Title 42, representing 60% of total encounters.
Republicans have accused the administration of fueling the crisis by rolling back Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) which kept migrants in Mexico for their hearings — as well as narrowing interior enforcement priorities and halting construction of the border wall.
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But the Biden administration has instead blamed the Trump administration,
“We’re continuing to dig out of the hole left by the previous administration on immigration,” an administration official said on a call with reporters, blaming the prior administration for not funding Northern Triangle countries and not requesting more bed capacity.