Almost 19,000 Migrant Children Were Stopped at US Border in March, Most Ever in a Month

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Young migrants lie down inside a pod at a Department of Homeland Security holding facility in Donna, Texas, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, on March 30, 2021. The minors are housed by the hundreds in eight pods that are about 3,200 square feet in size. Many of the pods have more than 500 children in them. (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP/Pool)

The number of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border in March was the most in at least 15 years.

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Agents for U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended nearly 172,000 people, according to Biden administration officials. This included nearly 19,000 children and teenagers traveling without a parent — double the number from February, and the most ever in a single month.

The overall surge in March — a 71% spike over February's figures — illustrates the scope of the ongoing challenge President Biden faces as he seeks to protect the border while overhauling the nation's asylum rules.

Administration officials said CBP turns adult migrants back 60% of the time because of Title 42, the health order implemented by the Trump administration aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

"The levels of flows pose a challenge to Border Patrol, but the high level of recidivism means that we can't look at those flows as individual people. It's often the same people coming back through," an official told reporters.

The administration has been struggling to handle the influx of children, who are not being turned away at the border. Facilities run by CBP are not designed to house children and teens. By the end of March, an average of 507 children a day were being transferred out of CBP facilities, up from 276 per day a month earlier.

"We are moving in the right direction, but we know we know we have a lot of work ahead," the official said, noting the administration has increased the number of emergency shelter beds.

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