The number of migrants crossing the southern border has increased again in recent weeks to the crushing levels seen last summer that overwhelmed Border Patrol stations as well as a network of border shelters that care for migrants if they are released from custody. Officials are projecting that crossings will rise even more as the weather improves and political instability and economic hardship roil parts of Latin America, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Border Patrol has made 7,000 arrests each day in March. That puts the U.S. on pace to record more than 200,000 arrests for March, the highest monthly total in at least 22 years, and more than a million for the first six months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said. The administration is preemptively strengthening government contracts for transportation and medical care and adding staff to handle increased arrivals. Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command, said last week the administration was weighing sending additional troops to the border.
Already, border patrol facilities in the Del Rio, Tx., and Yuma, Az., sections of the border that have historically seen low levels of crossings, are at several times their usual capacity. When Border Patrol officials become that overwhelmed, they sometimes opt to release migrants without court dates, making it tougher to track them later. The rapidly increasing numbers mean the Biden administration faces a number of complicated decisions. Administration officials believe they must end Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic policy at the border, but are fearful that the step could produce some of the worst-case scenarios they have started planning for. One possibility is that the administration could end Title 42 for migrant families, the subject of an appeals court ruling, while maintaining it for single adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency that gives the government the authority to expel migrants on public-health grounds, must decide by Wednesday as part of its periodic review whether to extend the policy or let it lapse.