Illegal Immigrant Arrests at US-Mexico Border Jump as End of Emergency Powers Looms
Illegal Immigrant Arrests at US-Mexico Border Jump as End of Emergency Powers Looms

By Zachary Stieber

Arrests of illegal immigrants at the United States–Mexico border jumped in March by 23 percent over the month before, newly released statistics show.

U.S. authorities carried out 191,899 apprehensions, up from about 156,100 in February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

More single adults, family units, and minors without responsible adults were encountered, driving the increase.

Arrests have skyrocketed during President Joe Biden’s administration and have shown no signs of slowing down. The 2.3 million apprehensions logged in fiscal year 2022 were a record high. If apprehensions continue on current trends, a new record will be set by the time the current fiscal year ends on Oct. 1.

“Joe Biden refuses to address the crisis his open border agenda created,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “Drug cartels and human smugglers thrive under Joe Biden’s watch as deadly fentanyl and traffickers pour into our communities.”

Biden administration officials acknowledged the increase from the prior month but pointed out that the numbers were down from March 2022, when more than 222,000 apprehensions were recorded. While arrests of people who illegally enter the country typically increase as the weather warms, the officials also noted that jump was lower than the increase in recent years.

“CBP works around the clock to perform our vital missions including maintaining border security. Overall, in March, encounters of individuals on the Southwest border between ports of entry were down … from the prior year, as we continue to respond to the challenges presented by increasing global migration,” Troy Miller, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said in a statement.

The new numbers did not include nationals from four countries, including Cuba, who were granted parole and allowed into the United States to live and work. Parole authority, traditionally used in select cases, has been increasingly utilized by the Biden administration. Some 27,783 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans were paroled into the United States in March.

Lawsuits against the program have been lodged by 20 states, which have sought an injunction against the widespread parole. The judge overseeing the case has not yet ruled on the motion.

Biden administration officials have said the program is one way they’re working to deal with the spike in illegal immigration. Other efforts include partnering with Panama and Colombia to crack down on migration through the Darién Gap, which connects North America to South America, and planning to restrict asylum to illegal immigrants who fail to seek protection in countries they pass through on the way to the United States.

End of Title 42

The crisis could be worse, some say, if Title 42 were not still in place.

First introduced during the Trump administration, Title 42 enables officials to quickly expel some illegal immigrants because of concerns they could carry COVID-19. Roughly 1.1 million expulsions were through Title 42 in fiscal year 2022.

The Biden administration first narrowed usage of Title 42 and then tried to end the order, but the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2022 ordered the administration to keep it in place.

Title 42, though, is predicated on the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. That means it will end when the declaration is allowed to expire in May, according to the White House Office of Budget and Management.

“The end of the public health emergency will end the Title 42 policy at the border,” the office said in a recent statement.

Officials have said they expect illegal immigrant arrests to jump after the policy ends.

The number of arrests “will likely be double or greater, straining Border Patrol operations,” the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said in a report. The watchdog said it did not see “viable plans” for border authorities to prepare for the end of Title 42.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in December 2022 that the immigration system “is under strain” as he urged Congress to act. A significant increase in apprehensions “will strain our system even further,” he added.

Officials have said that they will utilize Title 8, which enables expulsion of non-asylum seekers, even more once Title 42 expires and that they’ll release a higher number of illegal immigrants into the U.S. interior under a program called Alternatives to Detention, though a judge in March struck down the program because, he said, it’s likely illegal.

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