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Biden administration: Child arrivals at southern border hit record number in March

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In total, more than 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the border in March, officials said, marking a 15-year high in monthly crossings. Of those, the majority — more than 100,000 — were almost immediately expelled. That’s because the Biden administration has continued to use Title 42, a public health authority former President Donald Trump invoked in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic to kick out migrants without letting them seek asylum.

About 28 percent of those expelled were repeat crossers that had previously been expelled, officials said.

Meanwhile, more than 52,000 migrant families arrived in March, officials shared. More than 17,000 — almost one-third — of the families were expelled under Title 42. Biden has said he wants Mexico to accept back all migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border but Mexico is often unwilling or unable to receive them.

In the immediate term, the Biden administration has continued to take steps to increase shelter capacity and reduce the time it takes to release unaccompanied minors to vetted sponsors, like a parent or family member. As of Tuesday, there were more than 20,000 unaccompanied children — 4,228 in CBP custody and 16,045 in HHS care, according to preliminary daily numbers provided by DHS and HHS.

On the call, administration officials expressed optimism that they are making progress in moving children out of CBP custody — which is widely considered inadequate for the care of a child — and into HHS’s custody. The officials said the 30-day average for numbers of children transferred out of CBP custody has increased from 276 children at the end of February to 507 at the end of March.

“We are moving in the right direction, but we know we have a lot of work ahead,” one administration official said.

The officials also emphasized that Congress needs to take action to overhaul the existing U.S. immigration system. For decades, Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“Congress really has to act,” another official said. “We really have to fix the system. If we don’t fix legal immigration, it doesn’t matter who is president. We’re going to run into this problem over and over and over again.”

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