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The number of migrants encountered at the southern border surged past the 220,000 mark in March, marking the highest numbers seen under President Biden – numbers that are likely to further fuel bipartisan fears of unprecedented migrant traffic in the months ahead when the Biden administration lifts the Title 42 public health order.
Customs and Border Protection said in a court filing Friday that 221,303 migrants were encountered at the southern border in March. That’s approximately 28% higher than March 2021 when 173,277 migrants were encountered. In March 2020, just 34,460 migrants were encountered at the border.
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The number is bigger than last year’s high of 213,953 in July and is the third time under Biden that there have been more than 200,000 migrants at the border — which only occurred in two months at the height of the 2021 surge. While numbers dipped since July, they have remained comparatively high compared to the same months in prior years — never dipping below 150,000. Now, as the spring and summer months approach, they are already well above 200,000.
There have now been 1,026,460 encounters in the first 6 months of Fiscal Year 22, which began in October. In the first six months of the record setting FY 21, there were only 570,826 encounters. This means the first six months of FY 22 are up 79% over the first 6 months of record setting FY 21.
The increased traffic in March took place as there was talk of the Biden administration lifting the Title 42 public health order, which has been used since March 2020 to remove a majority of migrants at the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration eventually confirmed on April 1 that it would be lifting the order on May 23. Since then, border officials have frequently been encountering between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants a day.
The filings show that in March there were 123,304 removals, 109,549 of them were expelled under Title 42, while 80,127 migrants were released into the U.S., including 36,777 migrants who were granted humanitarian parole – meaning they are eligible for work permits.
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Both Democrats and Republicans, as well as officials within the administration, have predicted that there will be an additional increase in numbers once the Title 42 order lifts — as migrants will be drawn to the border knowing they are more likely to be released into the U.S. The administration has reportedly been planning for scenarios of up to 18,000 migrants a day.
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The coming ending of Title 42, and the predicted migrant surge, has led to significant bipartisan pushback. Republican states have sued to stop the lifting of the order, while a number of moderate Democrats have called on the administration to change course.
“Title 42 was put in place because of a public health emergency. It shouldn’t be around forever, but right now this administration does not have a plan. I warned them about this months ago,” Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz. told reporters this week.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called the decision to end the order “frightening.”
“We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy,” he said. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx.”
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Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Rep. John Katko, R-NY, said that Border Patrol agents are already facing overwhelming numbers even before facing the end of Title 42
“They’re overwhelmed. They’re going to lose complete operational control of the border, if and when that surge happens,” Katko, who is the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said on “Special Report” this week. “Everyone, including Homeland Secretary Mayorkas, understands that a surge is coming after Title 42 is gone.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.