Citing newly released data from Biden administration officials, ABC News reported Thursday that over 172,000 migrants crossed into the U.S. through the southern border last month, a staggering figure that the White House is now scrambling to defend amid claims from the GOP that the president himself is to blame for the surge.
March 2021 was the biggest month for migration through the U.S.–Mexico border since the early 2000s, according to NPR. The 172,000 apprehended by border officials included nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children, “double the levels from February and the most ever in a single month,” NPR reported.
According to ABC, roughly 60% of those arrested or detained by border officials last month were swiftly deported.
“This is not new”
In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) acting commissioner Troy Miller said the numbers have continued to climb into April.
“CBP has experienced an increase in encounters and arrests. This is not new,” he said, according to Fox News. “Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020, and our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year.”
Miller went on: “We are committed to balancing the need to maintain border security, care for those in our custody, and keep the American people and our workforce safe.”
In the meantime, Republicans in Washington have charged that if President Joe Biden and his administration really want to tamp down on migration, they ought to be more clear about that in their rhetoric.
“Biden wants to dismantle everything [former President Donald] Trump did, anything that has to do with border security,” Betty Cardenas, chair of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, said last month, according to PBS NewsHour. “Let’s just be honest here. Biden did send a clear message to [immigrants] to come to our border.”
“Biden doesn’t seem to care”
The president defended himself last month in his first press conference, saying “a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March” was to be expected. “It happens every year,” Biden said, according to PBS.
After the latest data was released, the White House doubled down. “Nobody should have the expectation this is going to be solved overnight,” an unnamed official told reporters Wednesday, according to USA Today.
Echoing earlier remarks from Biden, another unnamed official sought to blame Trump for the ongoing crisis. “We’re continuing to dig out of the hole left by the previous administration on immigration,” the official said, according to Fox.
But with the numbers off-the-charts and rising by the day, it doesn’t seem Republicans are buying what the Biden administration is trying to sell. “Border Patrol in McAllen, [Texas] told us…March was the busiest month for illegal immigration in their history,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote in a tweet Thursday. “They’re overwhelmed at their facilities,” he said — and all the while, “President Biden doesn’t seem to care.”