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Migrant arrivals at southern border surged to 22-year high in March

The Department of Homeland Security said there were 221,303 encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border last month, the highest level since 2000.

The number of migrant arrivals along the U.S. southern border climbed in March to the highest level in more than two decades, according to new government data.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a court filing Friday that there were 221,303 encounters with migrants along the border with Mexico border last month, a new high under the Biden administration.

The March figures, first reported by CBS News, combine statistics reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol.

It was the third time monthly border arrivals in the southwest surpassed 200,000 since President Joe Biden took office.

The spike comes on the heels of an announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas who said the administration will soon end the Trump-era public health rule known as Title 42, which the government has used since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to expel migrants who attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, including asylum-seekers, citing the spread of Covid.

The data for March included figures showing there were 109,549 expulsions under Title 42.

Federal officials have raised concerns about a further surge at the southern border after the public health policy is no longer implemented. Since it was first enacted in March 2020, the policy has been used to expel more than 1.7 million migrants.

The impending termination of Title 42 has come under harsh GOP criticism, with Republican lawmakers and even some Democratic centrists — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; and Jon Tester of Montana — demanding Biden hold off on making the change.

Republicans have indicated they plan on making immigration a key midterm campaign issue, particular in battleground states and districts as Democrats face an uphill battle to defend their slim majorities in the House and Senate this November.