WASHINGTON—Attempted migration at the U.S.-Mexico border is typically higher in the spring than other times of the year. But border apprehensions in the last three months have gone beyond the seasonal crush, reaching a 15-year high that has placed stress on the system and tested the Biden administration. In March, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents encountered 171,000 migrants, a number that ticked up to 180,000 by May, according to Department of Homeland Security data. A record 18,960 unaccompanied minors attempted to cross the border in March, and while the number has decreased slightly since, shelters are overcrowded and ill-equipped to meet children’s needs.
The Biden administration has called the border situation a “challenge,” while critics have called it a “crisis.” Either way, the chances of an immigration reform package clearing both chambers of Congress this summer seem to be waning despite ongoing bipartisan talks on the Hill and efforts from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft consensus bills.
The biggest impediment to immigration reform, some lawmakers say, is the border. The numbers of asylum-seekers ticked up steadily when the Biden administration took office, perhaps unsurprising after his numerous campaign pledges to carve out a “fair and humane” approach to immigration by ending practices such as forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico and holding kids in detention facilities.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden announced a pause on construction of the border wall, something Republicans have pointed to as exacerbating the flow of migrants.