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Border Patrol on pace to break recent records for monthly encounters with border crossers

A Border Patrol official said the numbers are expected to keep increasing: "Your spring months into your summer months are always much busier for us."
Asylum seekers await transport by U.S. Border Patrol agents on March 25, 2021 in Hidalgo, Texas.
Asylum seekers await transport by U.S. Border Patrol agents on March 25, 2021 in Hidalgo, Texas.John Moore / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Border Patrol has encountered an average of 5,000 undocumented immigrants per day over the past 30 days, according to a senior Border Patrol official who spoke to reporters on Friday, putting the U.S. on track to outpace the Trump administration's monthly record of border crossings.

In May 2019, more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants were encountered by the Border Patrol, marking a 12-year high. March is likely to surpass that, reaching 150,000 crossings per month — meaning apprehensions plus crossings at legal ports of entry without paperwork.

On Thursday, roughly 6,000 immigrants were encountered at the southwest border, the senior Border Patrol official said. Many of those immigrants are still being turned back into Mexico under an authority from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted to combat the spread of Covid-19. But all unaccompanied children and some migrant families are staying in the U.S.

The increase in unaccompanied children and the limited capacity of the Department of Health and Human Services to shelter them has created backlogs in border processing facilities. The official said on any given day Customs and Border Protection could have over 9,000 immigrants in its custody. On Thursday, senior Biden administration officials said CBP is not testing migrants for Covid-19 inside those overcrowded facilities.

To further alleviate overcrowding, the Border Patrol is constructing another facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, similar to the large tent compound constructed in Donna, Texas, to hold and process more immigrants, particularly children before they can be released to HHS.

The senior Border Patrol official said the agency is doing more to crack down on illegal smuggling, including going after companies that knowingly provide tractor trailers to cartels and others who transport immigrants, often endangering their lives.

The Border Patrol also announced late Thursday that a 9-year-old child had died while attempting to cross the Rio Grande. Agents found three immigrants, a Guatemalan mother and her two children, unresponsive and stranded on an island trying to cross the river. They were able to resuscitate the mother and her 3-year-old but not able to save the 9-year-old.

The senior Border Patrol official said the demographic they are encountering, particularly the large numbers of unaccompanied children and families, have made the surge seen this year "much different" than in years past. And, the official said, the numbers are expected to increase.

"Your spring months into your summer months are always much busier for us," the senior Border Patrol official said. The official added that in 2019 Border Patrol saw over 859,000 encounters in two sectors in Texas alone, a year that eventually saw over 977,000 encounters with undocumented immigrants across the border.

"I fully expect us to surpass that this fiscal year," the official said.

Geoff Bennett contributed.