Unlawful crossings along the Southern border have reached levels not seen for several months, straining government resources and taxing some local communities where large numbers of migrants have been released from federal custody. There were more than 8,000 arrests on Monday, said Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents. Such high numbers haven’t been seen since a surge in early May brought the daily number to nearly 10,000, and they are far higher than in mid-April, when there were about 4,900 illegal crossings a day, the New York Times reports. The effects of the increasing numbers ripple across the U.S., as communities on the border and others far from it find themselves scrambling to support migrants released from custody. “Right now we are seeing a surge,” said Ruben Garcia, who oversees a network of shelters in El Paso, across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. “We have a significant increase in the number of people crossing.”
The recent influx in unlawful crossings could present challenges for President Biden, whose administration has sought to keep the Southern border from fueling Republican narratives about immigration policy, particularly before the 2024 presidential election. During Biden’s time in office, the number of illegal crossings has reached notable highs, exceeding levels seen during a prepandemic influx in 2019 during the Trump administration. Crossings on the Southern border declined sharply for about six weeks in May and June after the end of a public health measure put in place during the pandemic. Known as Title 42, the rule resulted in the swift expulsion of migrants who had crossed the border illegally, even if they were seeking asylum. Officials had expected a spike in illegal crossings after the termination of Title 42, but the increase came days before, reaching about 9,500 a day in the week before Title 42 ended. Officials have attributed increases like these to several factors, including misinformation spread by the Mexican cartels that traffic drugs and smuggle migrants. Shelter workers, advocates and migrants say that some people who have been waiting months to access these legal pathways have grown impatient and are willing to take a risk.