According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS), March saw a 22-year-high in U.S.-Mexico border apprehensions. This was partly due to record-breaking arrivals of migrants from Cuba and other countries, such as Colombia, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ukraine, and figures released this week by DHS.
Customs and Border Protection processed migrants 221,303 more times at the southern border in March. This is a 33% increase from February and the highest number of processing since 2000 according to agency statistics. CBP stated that March’s 159,900 encounters were unique migrants and that there was a 28% increase in repeat border crossings.
A 33% increase in the number of single-adult apprehensions was partly responsible for the spike in migrant arrivals. They accounted to 169,062 (or 76%) of all border encounters. The number of unaccompanied minors and migrant parents arriving as families, and 37,818 respectively, also increased.
The number of Mexican migrants being held in detention, which is the majority of them single adults, increased by 22% to 87,388 from February. However, the number of migrants arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras also increased, although on a smaller scale. They reached 21,355, 16,063, and 8,387 respectively.
U.S. authorities reported that they encountered a record number of migrants from countries other than Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle. They accounted for nearly 40% of all border encounters in the last month.
U.S. border officers processed 32,141 Cuban migrants. This is an all-time record that more than doubled February’s total and made Cuba the second largest source for migration to the U.S. south border in March, just behind Mexico.
Last month, just over 16,000 Nicaraguans and 15144 Colombians crossed into U.S. custody — record numbers for both nationalities. These two countries were sixth and fifth largest migrant sending nations, respectively, surpassing other Latin American countries like El Salvador and Venezuela.
CBS News’ Adam Isacson, a Washington Office on Latin America migration policy analyst, stated that “there is no precedent for this.” “This remarkable change in nationalities is amazing.”
On February 22, 2022, asylum seekers from Colombia, Guatemala, Cuba and Cuba board a bus for a U.S. Immigration facility in Yuma, Arizona.
KATIE MCTIERNAN/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES
In March, the number of Ukrainians processed at U.S. Mexico border also jumped to 3,274, an 1,103% increase from February when 272 Ukrainians were taken into custody in the U.S. Ukraine was the ninth-largest source of migrants to the U.S. border. This surpasses some Western Hemisphere countries like Brazil and Haiti.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians have flown to Mexico to obtain visas in order to travel to the United States. Official border crossings in the United States have been instructed to allow Ukrainians into the country for humanitarian reasons.
According to CBP data, 96% of Ukrainians who were encountered at the southern border in march were processed at ports-of-entry, rather than being arrested by Border Patrol for illegally entering the country.
Experts said that the Biden administration will face major operational and political problems due to the sharp rise in migrants arriving from countries other than Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle. In late May, experts announced that the U.S. will lift a rule from pandemic era which allows officials to quickly expel border-crossers.
“This is a continuation to the trend that began last year for peoples from multiple countries other than Central America and Mexico, in order to reach the U.S.–Mexico border,” Andrew Selee of the Migration Policy institute told CBS News.
Selee pointed out that the U.S. cannot currently carry out large-scale deportations of Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants due to tensions with their authoritarian governments. This means that migrants from these countries can stay in the U.S. while asylum cases are being reviewed. This process can take many years.
Mexico will accept the return of its citizens as well as migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who have been expelled under the Title 42 rule during the pandemic. However, the U.S. is generally not allowed to expel migrants from any other country to its territory.
According to CBP data, 81% U.S. apprehensions in March of migrants from Mexico or Central America’s Northern Triangle at the southern border led to expulsions under Title 42. However, only 2% of all migrant apprehensions from other countries resulted in expulsions.
Title 42 was established by the Trump administration in March 2020. It has allowed U.S. border officials to expel more than 1.8 million migrants. 75% of these were conducted under President Biden’s supervision, according to government statistics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, stated earlier this month that Title 42 is no longer necessary to control coronavirus outbreaks in migrant holding units due to increased vaccination rates and improved pandemic conditions. The CDC announced that it would end the policy on May 23,
After crossing the border between the U.S.A and Mexico, a group of migrants walks along the wall near Sasabe in Arizona.
SALWANGEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POINT VIA GETTY IMAGGES
Republicans quickly reacted to the CDC’s decision, accusing Biden of being too lenient with migrants. It has alarmed centrist Democrats as well, who fear that an even greater increase in border arrivals could hurt their chances of winning re-election in November.
CBP processed migrants more than 1.7 million times along Mexico’s border in fiscal 2021. This is a record. The agency already has over 1,000,000 migrant arrivals six months into fiscal 2022.
CBP processed an average 7,000 migrants daily along the southern border in March. DHS officials plan to increase that number to 12,000, or even 18,000 when Title 42 expires. This unprecedented scenario would overburden the already limited U.S. border processing capabilities.
Republicans and some Democrats claim that the administration isn’t ready to terminate Title 42. DHS officials stated that they are preparing by mobilizing hundreds more border agents, increasing processing facility capacity, and securing additional buses or aircraft to handle migrants.
Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary, has stated that migrants will be able to apply for asylum in the United States once Title 42 is removed. He stated that those who do not qualify for asylum will be quickly deported.
The policy analyst, Isacson, stated that the U.S. would continue to struggle to deport migrants not from Mexico and Central America once Title 42 is removed. The expedited removal tool, which was used to deport Central American and Mexican migrants prior to the pandemic, is only available to those who have not asked for asylum or fail to prove credible fear of persecution.
Isacson stated that the number of migrants coming from Central America and Mexico to North America will remain high so long as there are still travel options and sophisticated networks of smugglers to facilitate their journey to the U.S.
He said that Cubans fly to Nicaragua first, to enjoy visa-free travel. Then they fly to the United States. Nicaraguans trek through Central America and Mexico to get to the border. Colombians fly to Mexico to avoid visas, and then travel to Arizona.
Isacson stated that he believes the true growth in migrant arrivals over the long-term will be from countries that are difficult to return people from and relatively easy to travel to the United States.
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The number of migrants arriving at the U.S. border rose to 221,000 in March. This is the highest total since 2000.
Camilo Montoya–Galvez is CBS News’ immigration reporter. He is based in Washington and covers politics as well as immigration policy.