According to a court document filed Friday in the federal lawsuit between Texas and Missouri against the administration of President Joe Biden, Customs and Border Protection agents encountered more than 221,000 illegal migrants along the southern border in March.
“For the month of March 2022, [Department of Human Services] reported 221,303 total encounters at the Southwest Border,” the court filing states. “This figure combines statistics reported by the CBP Office of Field Operations, which deals with noncitizens seeking to enter at land ports of entry, with statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol, which apprehends noncitizens seeking to enter between [ports of entry].”
The filing is a court mandated monthly report as part of the lawsuit.
The number of illegal individuals encountered is the highest for that month since March 2000, when 220,063 illegal migrants were encountered at the Southwest border, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, and seven times higher than 2020.
The March total is a 24% increase from the same month a year earlier, when 169,000 migrants were picked up at the border, the start of a rise in migration that left thousands unaccompanied children stuck in crowded border patrol stations for days while they awaited placement in overwhelmed government-run shelters.
Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021, pledged to reverse many of the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump, but has struggled both operationally and politically with high numbers of attempted crossings.
Republicans, who hope to gain control of the U.S. Congress in Nov. 8 midterm elections, say Biden’s rollback of Trump-era policies has encouraged more illegal immigration.
Biden officials have cautioned that migration could rise further after U.S. health officials said they will end a pandemic-era border order by May 23. The order, known as Title 42, allows asylum seekers and other migrants to be rapidly expelled to Mexico to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While more than half of the migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months have been from the traditional sending countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, migrants have increasingly been arriving from more far-flung places, including Ukraine and Russia.
U.S. officials are preparing for as many as 18,000 migrant encounters per day in the coming weeks, but are also readying for smaller increases.
Another 11,000 migrants attempted to enter at a legal crossing along the southwest border in March without a valid visa or permission, the court filing said.
Roughly half of the migrants encountered in March were expelled under the Title 42 order, the court filing said.