Each month this year, undocumented migrants have arrived at the southern border by the tens of thousands, numbers that the Biden administration refuses to call a crisis. And while the winter and early spring months normally see the highest frequency of border crossings — a seasonal pattern that may have been amplified by the pandemic — the 178,622 arrests and detentions on the U.S.-Mexico border marked the highest single-month total in two decades, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data released on Tuesday.
The CBP numbers weren’t all bad for the Biden administration, as the increase in undocumented arrivals causes the White House to catch flak on its left and right flanks on what Nancy Pelosi has called a “humanitarian crisis” at the border. Though April was the highest month, the 178,622 detention figure represented just a 3 percent increase over March, suggesting the seasonal rise may be abating, or that increased enforcement on Mexico’s southern border may be working to stop Central American migrants closer to home. More importantly for a White House that has struggled to shelter the increased numbers of unaccompanied child migrants, the number of minors arriving without parents decreased by 9 percent.
In April, the White House made progress re-housing child migrants held in overcrowded CBP shelters. In late March, 3,400 unaccompanied minors were held in a single tent facility in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas meant to hold 250. Many young children were sleeping close together on the ground on mats and foil blankets, wearing masks to halt coronavirus transmission. But as the Washington Post notes, the Biden administration was able to reduce the number of teens and children in custody from a peak of “5,700 to fewer than 500 on Tuesday,” mostly through the addition of emergency shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS still has over 20,000 unaccompanied minors in its care as officials work to relocate these children with family sponsors in the U.S.
Adult migrants crossing the border rose last month, representing over 111,000 of those detained. Due to President Biden’s decision to hold over Title 42 — a Trump-era public-health order serving as pretext to deport asylum seekers during the pandemic — the vast majority of those adults were quickly sent back into Mexico.