WASHINGTON – United States authorities saw a record high number of migrants at the nation’s southern border in April, with data being release just weeks before the administration is set to end a Trump-era public health order that made it difficult for people to seek asylum.
Customs and Border Protection officials encountered 234,088 individuals at the United States' southern border in April, an uptick from March and the highest total for one month in 22 years, according to data published Tuesday. The data includes encounters with individuals who tried to enter legally through ports of entry, as well as those who tried to enter illegally between ports of entry.
The latest numbers come as President Joe Biden has faced backlash from Republicans and some Democrats for moving to end Title 42, a public health order issued by the Trump administration that allows Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants to Mexico or back to their home countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in holding facilities.
The CDC kept the policy in place for more than a year into the Biden administration, despite fierce objections from immigration activists and some Democrats. A judge in the coming days is going to decide whether the administration will be able to lift the public health order.
The Biden administration is preparing to end Title 42 on May 23 and has attributed the high number of migrants at the border to the public health order and people repeatedly trying to enter the country.
The new encounters data was released Tuesday as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
“We recognize that with the end of Title 42, there very well may be an increased surge in migration,” Mayorkas said at a press conference Tuesday. “We have to equip (CBP) with the resources and capabilities to address that increase as well.”
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Although April saw a record high number of migrants at the border, data from CBP shows has myriad underlying data points, including an increased number of Ukrainians at the border and data showing the number of people coming to the border for the first time is declining.
Illegal border crossings down from March
Despite a record high of total encounters, the amount of border encounters by border patrol was down from last month, according to the CBP data.
Encounters by border patrol agents typically happen between ports of entry.
In April, border patrol agents encountered 201,800 individuals — a 4 percent decrease from March. Comparatively, in March officials encountered 210,749 individuals.
Unique border encounters still high
There were 157,555 unique encounters — encounters with individuals who have not tried to cross into the United States before — in April, according to CBP.
While that was down slightly from March , the number is still high compared to previous years.
The Biden administration previously said that some border policies, such as Title 42, have led to high rates of recidivism, or people who have tried to cross into the United States at least one other time.
Mayorkas on Tuesday told reporters that regardless of recidivism, the United States is seeing a high rate of encounters at the border.
“In the immediate term, I think we're concerned that we see a greater level of encounters at the border,” he said, according to a pool report.
More Ukrainians crossed at ports of entry
There were an increased number of people encountered at ports of entry — largely due to more Ukrainian refugees trying to come to the United States.
According to CBP, Office of Field Operations officers encountered 32,288 people at the ports of entry — a 183% increase from March. CBP attributed the high number of encounters at the ports of entry to Ukrainian refugees, but did not release the total number of Ukrainians.
Biden pledged to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the United States following Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. The administration laid out a plan in late April that streamlined the process to allow Ukrainians fleeing the war to be sponsored by Americans to come to the United States.
However, prior to the plan being announced, there were increased numbers of Ukrainians trying to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Biden on April 28 told Ukrainians to stop trying to come to the United States through the nation’s southern border.
"We have said there's no need to go to the southern border,” Biden said during a speech at the White House. “Fly directly to the United States, we set up a mechanism whereby they can come directly with a visa."
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More than 40% of people expelled under Title 42
More than 40% of people encountered by CBP officials encountered at air, land or sea ports of entry across the country were expelled under Title 42.
The bulk of the individuals expelled were single adults at 89,642. There were 7,058 family units expelled under Title 42, according to CBP data.
Mayorkas said Tuesday that in preparation for the end of Title 42, the administration is providing more resources to handle an expected surge of refugees who will seek entry at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“You know, look, Title 42 is a public health authority, and it was imposed because of the pandemic,” Mayorkas said Tuesday, adding that it’s the administration’s hope that the pandemic “gets behind us once and for all.” “We started planning last year, understanding that Title 42 would not, in fact, be around forever.”
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Immigration: Border encounters reach record highs in April