Authorities have dropped off families with children at bus stations in border communities, where they then continue their journeys north to relatives in the United States. Border officials encountered more than 1,360 migrants traveling as part of families on Sunday and expelled just 219, according to the documents. On March 26, more than 2,100 families were detained and just 200 were turned back south.
“We are seeing the numbers increase day by day. They increased tremendously, especially in March,” said Hugo Zurita, the executive director of Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, Texas, which has been providing hot meals and items, such as clothing, hand sanitizer and masks, to migrant families at the city’s bus station.
Republican members of Congress, vowing to make the issue central to their efforts to retake control of Congress, have repeatedly accused the administration of encouraging the surge in migration with President Biden’s pledge to have more compassionate policies toward migrants than those imposed under President Donald J. Trump.
“They’re certainly going to be using this as a weapon against us,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas. “It’s taking away from Biden’s good work. He’s done a hell of a job on vaccines. It’s taken us away from the messaging we’ve had.”
The Biden administration has continued to use a pandemic-emergency rule to rapidly expel single adults, who continued to make up the majority of those caught at the border in March. Advocates for immigrants have criticized the rule as breaking with immigration laws that say migrants are entitled to apply for asylum upon reaching U.S. soil.
The White House has talked to at least one member of Congress about the possibility of expelling 16 and 17-year-olds to Mexico, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
The administration has also framed its response as focused on tackling the root causes of migration, appointing Vice President Kamala Harris to work with leaders in the region to bolster the economy in Central America and restarting an Obama-era program that allows some children to apply in their home region for permission to live in the United States with a parent or other relative.