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Number of attempted illegal border crossings rises 28 percent in February

Republicans have blamed higher border numbers on Biden policies. The official running CBP pointed to a hurricane, Covid and violence in Central America.
Image: Border Patrol Agents Detain Migrants Near US-Mexico Border
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrive to detain a group of Central American asylum seekers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.John Moore / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The monthly number of attempted illegal border crossings increased 28 percent in February, the first full month of the Biden administration, according to the senior official currently performing the duties of Customs and Border Protection commissioner.

Troy Miller told reporters Wednesday that CBP had 100,441 encounters with migrants crossing the border in February, up from 78,442 in January. According to a CBP official, about 75,000 of the February migrants were encountered just once, while the other 25,000 attempted crossings were by individuals who had been encountered more than once during the same month.

Miller said that 9,457 of the migrants making illegal crossings were unaccompanied children, a group the administration has struggled to accommodate.

As of this week, Border Patrol processing facilities were holding more than 3,200 unaccompanied children, more than 1,400 of them staying over the 72-hour legal limit, officials told NBC News. Miller declined to provide reporters with an updated number on the number of unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody.

"We are doing everything in our power to get them out of our custody," Miller said.

More than 19,200 of the immigrants stopped by the Border Patrol in February were part of family units, which are parents and children crossing together, Miller said.

Republicans in Congress have blamed the higher numbers at the border on the Biden administration's policies. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said there was a "crisis brewing" on the border because of what he called Biden's "sweeping left-wing amnesty plan," while on Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted that the border was "approaching full-blown crisis, and the Biden Admin's response is ... nothing."

Miller attributed the rise in immigrants coming to the Southwest border to the dire circumstances in Central American countries.

"All you have to do is look at the pandemic, the rising Covid rate infections down in South and Central America," Miller said. "We had recently had a hurricane, continued violence, unemployment. If you put all of those issues together, you're going to see folks looking for a better way of life."