U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 171,000 migrants at the southern border in March, marking a 15-year high.
The figure includes nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors, which tops the prior all-time monthly high of nearly 12,000 in May 2019. According to the Washington Post, the surge has allowed nearly 1,000 illegal migrants—often cartel smugglers bringing drugs—to enter the United States daily without being captured.
Both Democrats and Republicans have labeled the situation a "crisis," a tag that President Joe Biden and top White House officials have rejected. Biden insisted during a March press conference that the surge is merely a seasonal spike, falsely asserting that the historic number of migrant apprehensions happens "every single solitary year." He has yet to address the record number of border crossings in March, and the White House did not return a request for comment.
Biden administration officials expect to encounter 2 million migrants at the southern border in 2021. Border apprehensions have not surpassed 1 million since 2006. Many Border Patrol agents working the northern border are now being reassigned to the Rio Grande Valley to help deal with the surge.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) visited the southeastern border with Texas Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar on Thursday. The senator suggested a 90-day moratorium on immigration to quell what he called a "human crisis."
"So if that means shutting everything down for 90 days of how we have people come into our country, sending that message … is that going to put the pressure?" Manchin said. "Something has to be done and it has to be expedited. … This problem is not going away. The problem will not cure itself, I can assure you, and they're coming in droves."
The migrant surge has led to "severe overcrowding" at Customs and Border Protection detention facilities, two independent inspectors concluded Friday. The Biden administration has responded by pushing to relocate unaccompanied minors to nonstandard holding facilities, a move that federal officials warn will subject migrant children to "extremely dangerous" conditions. The White House last week asked the Pentagon to use military bases in Texas and California to house such migrants.
Administration officials have also asked unrelated agency employees to apply for one-to-four-month volunteer stints at the border in an attempt to aid Border Patrol agents, many of whom have been pulled from policing the territory to care for migrant children. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairwoman Charlotte Burrows, for example, called on staffers to "lend support" to the "unprecedented influx of unaccompanied children at our Southern Border" in a Tuesday email obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
"These children are alone, frightened, separated from family, and currently being housed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in holding areas that were not meant for children beyond a short period of time," Burrows said.