The number of migrants caught crossing the southern border illegally rose in February as single adult Mexicans poured into the country at their highest rate in years, according to new Homeland Security data released Tuesday.
All told, Customs and Border Protection tallied 164,973 encounters with unauthorized migrants last month, up about 7% compared to January.
CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus called the increase — which works out to more than 10,000 additional people in February, a shortened month — a “slight uptick.”
Of those caught, 71,210 were Mexican. That’s up more than 40% compared to just a couple of months ago.
Mr. Magnus said the majority of people caught at the border were quickly expelled under the pandemic health emergency order that the Trump administration implemented and which the Biden administration has kept largely in place.
Among the worrying signs in the data was the number of migrant children traveling without parents. The Border Patrol reported catching 11,810, a 37% increase over January, reversing what had been one of the few bright spots on the border.
Agents caught about 25,000 parents and children traveling as families, down about half compared to December.
Other yardsticks of border security also trended in the wrong direction, with heroin seizures spiking 173% in February. Cocaine seizures were up 83%, and methamphetamine seizures rose 97%. But fentanyl, which has been shattering records, actually dropped 21%.
Authorities say increases in people and drugs being seized means more people and drugs are getting through.
Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he was “alarmed” by the trend line.
He was worried by the surge in drug trafficking, which is costing a record number of lives.
“This crisis is a direct result of the Biden administration’s policy choices,” Mr. Portman said.
The Border Patrol has tallied nearly 2.2 million arrests at the southern border since President Biden took office.
By contrast, during the same 13-month period in President Trump’s term, agents recorded only about 272,000 arrests.
And before Mr. Biden, it had been 15 years since the U.S. last recorded even a single month with more than 150,000 apprehensions. February marked the 12th straight month of CBP encounters exceeding 150,000.
RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the Biden administration has made mass illegal migration “the new normal.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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