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Migrant crossings at US southern border reach record monthly high in December

The Border Patrol processed more migrants who entered the United States illegally in December than in any other month in the agency’s history, according to internal federal statistics obtained by CBS News, underscoring the magnitude of the situation . of the extraordinary migration crisis the Biden administration is struggling.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested more than 225,000 migrants who crossed the southern border – between two official crossings – during the first 27 days of December, according to preliminary statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. This figure does not include legal entries at ports of entry, where the Biden administration processes about 50,000 migrants each month, most in a process fueled by a smartphone app.

The previous monthly record for migrant apprehensions was in May 2022, when the Border Patrol processed 224,000 migrants between ports of entry. There are still four days left in December.

Migrants attempt to cross the US-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on December 27, 2023.

Christian Torres/Anadolu via Getty Images

The current peak in migration peaked before Christmas, during the week beginning Dec. 14 and ending Dec. 20, when the Border Patrol recorded an average of 9,773 daily apprehensions, the data shows. On several days that week, the agency processed more than 10,000 migrants in 24 hours.

Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border declined this week, but remain at historically high levels. As of Wednesday, the Border Patrol processed 7,759 migrants, according to statistics.

“It’s an unsustainable number of arrivals,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former U.S. immigration official under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “We cannot continue to fund the system for increasing numbers of people. This is a challenge at every level.”

Nearly 60 percent of all migrants processed by Border Patrol this month entered the United States illegally in the isolated areas of Tucson, Ariz., and Del Rio, Texas, where authorities recorded between 2,000 and 3,000 illegal crossings every day, according to internal DHS data. In both regions, migrants found themselves sleeping outdoors near international bridges or border fences due to a lack of border patrol personnel. labor and resources to treat everyone in a timely manner.

In a statement, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol’s parent agency, said it has sent additional agents and resources to these hard-hit areas.

“The number of encounters continues to fluctuate, as smugglers and bad actors continue to spread lies and demonstrate callous disregard for the safety and well-being of vulnerable migrants,” the agency added. “We remain vigilant and are prepared to ensure the safety of our personnel, migrants and local communities, as well as the security of our southwest border.”

A high-stakes moment for the Biden administration

Record levels of migrant crossings this month clearly illustrate the enormous logistical, humanitarian and political challenges. President Biden faces in the USA southern border.

Politically, Mr. Biden’s woes on immigration are clear as he faces re-election in 2024. Public polls, including those from CBS News, have consistently indicated that most Americans perceive d takes a dim view of his administration’s management of border and immigration issues.

While Republicans have criticized Mr. Biden’s immigration agenda since his first months in office in 2021, the president is facing a growing chorus of concerns from his fellow Democrats across the country.

Small American border communities like Eagle Pass, Texas; Jacumba Hot Springs, California; and Lukeville, Arizona, have suddenly become major transit points where thousands of migrants enter the country illegally every day, despite barbed wire or federal border walls in their path. The influx of illegal entries has strained local and federal resources in these remote areas, prompting local and state officials to call for more federal support.

Meanwhile, major US cities like Chicago, Denver and New York continued to fight to accommodate tens of thousands of migrants, many of whom are destitute and have no ties to the United States. On Wednesday, the Democratic mayors of the three cities warned that without more federal aid, they would soon be unable to welcome more migrants.

In a statement released Thursday, White House spokesman Angelo Fernández Hernández said the Biden administration helped 10,000 migrants housed in municipal shelters apply for work permits, expediting the review of those applications and approved millions of dollars in funds for communities welcoming newcomers.

In Congress, Republican lawmakers have conditioned additional military aid to Ukraine on drastic restrictions on asylum and new legal authorities to quickly expel migrants. Determined to deliver more aid to Ukraine and address dire challenges at the southern border, the White House is supporting some of the hard-line border policies championed by Republicans. Negotiations between lawmakers and the White House are expected to continue into the new year.

The scale of the crisis along the southern border has intensified so much this month that the White House dispatched Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, traveled to Mexico City on Wednesday to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to seek his help in curbing migration to the UNITED STATES.

The White House National Security Council said Mexico had taken “significant new steps” to reduce migrant arrivals along the U.S. border, but did not provide further details on those operations. He said officials from the two countries would meet again in Washington in January “to assess progress and decide what more can be done.”

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