The US administration of President Joe Biden arrested more than 171,000 asylum seekers at the United States border with Mexico in March, continuing another controversial policy by former President Donald Trump.
According to preliminary data shared with Reuters the number of asylum seekers arrested at the border is the highest monthly total in two decades.
This is while the new US president had promised to alleviate atrocities and the humanitarian crisis Central American and Mexican asylum seekers had faced during the Trump upon arrivals in recent months and recent years.
After Biden took the helm, the preliminary March arrest totals at the US-Mexico border represent the highest monthly level since April 2000, when border patrol agents took into custody more than 180,000 asylum seekers.
The rising number of asylum seekers taken into custody by authorities at the US-Mexico border has thrust Biden into an emerging humanitarian and political crisis a little more than two months after he took office.
The March figures showed a 178% increase in the number of asylum seeking families who were taken into custody at the border compared with last month.
The Biden administration said it was struggling to relocate the newly arrived unaccompanied children, who were exempted from expulsion under a COVID-19 health order known as Title 42.
Asylum seeking children were now being taken into custody and packed up in crowded stations along the border and processing centers used for migrants.
Biden said last week that the "vast majority" of families were being sent back to Mexico.
"We are sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming," Biden said on Thursday in his first press conference since taking office. "They should all be going back."
He said that his administration was in talks with the Mexican government to ensure more asylum seeking families can be expelled there, but insisted that unaccompanied children will continue to be allowed into the United States as he defended his handling of the border issue at his first news conference.
Biden said the vast majority of migrants caught at the US-Mexico border were being deported but that some families had been allowed into the country because Mexico would not agree with their return.
Biden, a Democrat, also argued that the overall increase in border arrests was part of a seasonal trend that had happened under the former Republican president.
Some of the Democrats in Biden’s party have even criticized the conditions in facilities used to hold the children and called for them to be released faster.