According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) latest monthly operational update, there were 209,906 illegal border crossings in March. Illegal border crossings are defined as crossings outside official ports of entry. The 209,906 number, reported Monday, is the highest number of illegal border crossings reported since March 2000.
Monday’s CBP numbers also revealed there were 221,303 migrant encounters in the month of March. Migrant encounters are defined as the moments when authorities either detain or force migrants out of the country. March’s migrant encounter total is up 33% from February.
“Of those, 28 percent involved individuals who had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months, compared to an average one-year re-encounter rate of 14 percent for FY2014-2019,” CBP said in a release on March’s numbers. “109,549 encounters, 50 percent of the total, were processed for expulsion under Title 42.”
Title 42, a public health order that enabled U.S. authorities to turn back most migrants during the pandemic, is set to expire in May. President Joe Biden has been under pressure from some to extend Title 42, mainly out of fear that CBP migrant encounters and illegal border crossings will further increase once the order expires, like they did in March.
“While we may likely see an increase in encounters after the CDC’s Title 42 Public Health Order is terminated on May 23, CBP continues to execute this administration’s comprehensive strategy to safely, orderly, and humanely manage our borders,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement. “CBP is surging personnel and resources to the border, increasing processing capacity, securing more ground and air transportation, and increasing medical supplies, food, water, and other resources to ensure a humane environment for those being processed.”
In what some are seeing as another blow to border security, Reuters reported Tuesday that Mexico has disbanded a select anti-narcotics unit that had worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to tackle organized crime in Mexico, according to a DEA agent with knowledge of the matter who talked to Reuters under the condition of anonymity. A second source familiar with the situation confirmed the closure of the unit.
“They strangled it,” the agent said, referring to the unit. “It shatters the bridges we spent decades putting together.”
The unit was one of the Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU) operating in about 15 countries to dismantle smuggling rings and bust drug lords. Mexico’s SIU police unit worked on some of the biggest cases, such as the 2016 capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.