In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allowed the majority of the migrant families it encountered on the U.S. southwestern border to stay in the country pending a decision on whether they will be allowed to stay permanently.
The latest numbers mark an increase in the percentage of migrant family units who were allowed to stay in the United States over January, as a health order from the Trump administration meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus prohibits entry to aliens who may be considered a health risk.
In February, there were 19,246 total encounters with migrant families on the Southern border. Of those encounters, only 7,915 were expelled from the country under the Trump-era health order, called Title 42.
But 11,331 of those families, or nearly 59%, were allowed to stay in the United States pending a final decision on if they will be removed under a separate provision called Title 8.
In January, CBP expelled 4,546 family units under Title 42 out of 7,294 encounters, just over 62%.
“The unique challenges of the pandemic require additional authorities, such as the CDC order known as Title 42, to allow DHS to effectively protect both the health and safety of migrants and our communities from the spread of COVID-19,” a CBP spokesperson told Fox News. “The border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned under Title 42.”
CBP is still expelling the vast majority of single aliens it encounters on the Southwestern border. The agency encountered 71,598 total single aliens in February and booted 64,108 of them under the Trump health order.
Decisions to allow migrants to stay in the country under Title 8, the CPB spokesperson said, are made depending on the circumstances of each case.
The Washington Post first reported the change in dynamic on how many families are being allowed to stay in the United States on the border. It also reported that the Biden administration is under pressure to reverse that health order and allow more alien individuals and families to stay in the United States.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday criticized President Biden for considering removing Title 42.
“He removes remaining in Mexico policy. He removes the PACR policy. He stops the building of the wall. He questions whether to keep Title 42,” McCarthy said. “That’s why you put your whole family together to make this trek. Because you just listened to what President Biden said. No law has changed by moving of Congress. This entire crisis is created simply by Joe Biden’s actions and words.”
The CBP website elaborates on why it is expelling migrants under Title 42, citing “serious danger” posed by the persistence of the coronavirus in both Mexico and Canada.
“Under this order, CBP is prohibiting the entry of certain persons who potentially pose a health risk, either by virtue of being subject to previously announced travel restrictions or because they unlawfully entered the country to bypass health screening measures,” the CPB website says of the Title 42.
“This order does not apply to persons who should be excepted based on considerations of law enforcement, officer and public safety, humanitarian, or public health interests,” it also says.
Biden and his administration have come under harsh scrutiny for their handling of the situation at the border, with Republicans blaming Biden’s campaign rhetoric for the surge in migrants.
Republicans have also slammed Biden and members of his administration for not being willing to call the border situation a “crisis.” A senior CBP official who spoke on condition of anonymity also told Fox News that there is a “crisis” on the border.
“The president understands it is a crisis which is why he told migrants ‘don’t come over,'” the official told Fox News.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, meanwhile, testified Wednesday that the Biden administration is taking steps to address the border.
“We have taken a series of actions to address the increase in the number of unaccompanied children at the border,” he said. “We have increased our capacity to hold the children until HHS can shelter them while it identifies and vets the children’s sponsors.”
Mayorkas also pointed to the administration’s reinstatement of the Central American Minors (CAM) program, which had been scrapped by the Trump administration. The CAM program helps children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras reunite with parents lawfully in the U.S. without them having to travel alone to the border unsure of what will happen when they get there.
Fox News’ Evie Fordham, Griff Jenkins, Peter Hasson and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.