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Migrant encounters at the southern border are increasing from what were already unusually high levels for this time of year just as the Biden administration is facing pressure to end Title 42 restrictions being used to expel more than half of those coming to the border.
There were 164,973 encounters in February, compared to 101,099 encounters in February last year, a month that preceded a massive surge in numbers in the spring and summer months that overwhelmed Border Patrol. In February 2020, there were just 36,687 encounters.
DHS PUTS OUT CALL FOR EMPLOYEES TO VOLUNTEER AT SOUTHERN BORDER AMID ‘LARGE NUMBERS’ OF MIGRANTS
Migrants released by the Border Patrol with notices to appear in court in Somerton, Ariz., wait for COVID-19 testing at a Regional Center for Border Health warehouse before being taken by charter bus to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Feb 5, 2022.
(AP Photo/Elliot Spagat, File)
Numbers decreased in 2021 over the winter months since the highs of August but remained high compared to prior years. There were 153,941 migrant encounters in January 2022 compared to 78,414 migrant encounters in January 2021. February saw a 7% increase over January’s numbers.
So far in fiscal year 2022, which began in October, there have been 838,685 migrant encounters. In all of FY 2021 there were 1.7 million. In FY 2020, there were 458,088 encounters.
There are already signs those numbers are creating problems for the administration. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a call on Wednesday for employees to volunteer at the border, almost a year after the DHS Volunteer Force was reactivated last year ahead of the 2021 migrant surge.
“Once again, we need to tap into our department’s greatest resource: the skills of our talented and diverse workforce. Today, I am asking you to consider stepping forward to support the DHS Volunteer Force,” the email says.
“[Customs and Border Protection] continues to encounter large numbers of individuals at the southwest border,” the email adds. “We are seeking your help to support our CBP frontline workforce.”
The new numbers come as Democrats are increasingly vocal, including both progressives and those in congressional leadership, about demanding the Biden administration end Title 42.
“Title 42 has been nothing short of disastrous for immigrant families seeking asylum from the horrors in their own countries,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a call with reporters last week, according to Border Report. “It is unacceptable that this policy continues to be used indiscriminately to remove migrants with valid refugee claims from our southern border.”
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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order during the Trump administration allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been continued during the Biden administration with some exceptions. In February, more than half of migrants encountered at the border were expelled under Title 42.
Both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have also called on the administration to end the policy.
President Biden speaks at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference March 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The administration has deferred to the CDC on when Title 42 should end, but there are signs it may be coming soon. BuzzFeed News reported last week that the Biden administration is planning to tell Mexico it may soon end Title 42. The order is next up for renewal in early April.
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Axios, meanwhile, reported that the administration has set up a “war room” in the form of a Southwest Border Coordination Center to coordinate the response to what officials say could be a “mass migration event” and a surge of 170,000 migrants if Title 42 is scrapped.
A White House official told Fox News Thursday the administration continues to defer to the CDC on the use of the order and how long it might remain. The official stressed that Title 42 is still in effect, and anyone who crosses the border illegally can be subject to border restrictions, including expulsion.
Fox News’ Kristina Biddle contributed to this report.