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More than 234,000 migrants tried to cross southern U.S. border in April, a new high

Numbers for May are so far consistent with those in April.

U.S. border officials encountered 234,088 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in April, topping March’s 22-year high of just over 221,000, according to a court document filed Monday. 

April marks the fourth time in the Biden administration that monthly border encounters have topped 200,000. Each undocumented migrant who either reports to the authorities at legal ports of entry or tries to cross illegally and is caught is tallied as an encounter. 

Numbers for May are so far consistent with those in April. According to internal Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News, last week CBP encountered an average of just over 7,400 migrants a day. If the trend continues for 30 days, CBP would have a monthly encounter rate of just under 230,000.

The April figure is likely to heighten pressure from Republicans and some Democrats on the Biden administration to maintain an anti-Covid public health measure known as Title 42, which has blocked over 1.7 million migrants from staying in the U.S. to seek asylum. Those opposed to lifting the order say doing so could overwhelm an already strained system responsible for processing immigrants, adjudicating their claims and, in some cases, deporting them back to their home countries. 

In April, 96,908 of the more than 234,000 migrants were expelled back to Mexico under Title 42. The percentage of migrants being subjected to Title 42 has dropped since the beginning of the order in March 2020, in part because of Mexico’s refusal to take back migrants of certain nationalities and in part because Mexico stops taking in returned migrants whenever its shelters along the border reach capacity. 

Department of Homeland Security officials estimate that more than 170,000 migrants who have been subjected to Title 42 are waiting in camps in northern Mexico, hoping to enter the U.S. when the order lifts on May 23. They say others may be motivated to leave their home countries and try to emigrate. 

Judges in Texas and Louisiana may issue orders in the coming days that would, at least temporarily, keep Title 42 in place.