Migrant encounters at the southern border increased again in December from the prior month, according to data provided to a federal court by the Biden administration -- the latest sign that the crisis at the border is likely to continue into 2022.
According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data provided in the Jan 14 filing, there were 178,840 migrant encounters in December, up from 173,620 in November. That in turn was an increase from the 164,753 apprehensions in October.
Those numbers are drastically higher than the previous year, when there were 72,113 encounters in November and 73,994 in December.
CBP has not yet officially released its monthly operational update, and told Fox that it does not provide preliminary data or comment before the update posts. A spokesperson said that the official data should be published in the coming days.
Of the 178,840 apprehensions, 78,589 were expelled via Title 42 -- the Trump era public health order that has been kept in a limited capacity and can be used to expel migrants quickly at the southern border.
The documents also show that 55,626 migrants were released into the U.S. Of those, 36,652 were released on an order of recognizance with a Notice to Appear at an eventual court hearing. Meanwhile, nearly 19,000 were given humanitarian parole -- which is used on a "case by case basis" for an urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reason.
The Biden administration has been struggling to deal with the ongoing crisis at the southern border, which saw a massive increase in apprehensions after President Biden was inaugurated. The number spiked to more than 213,000 encounters in July, and has dropped slightly since then but has remained stubbornly above the 150,000 mark.
Republican critics have blamed the surge on the dramatic rollback of Trump-era border protections and policies. The Biden administration has ended border wall construction, terminated asylum cooperative agreements and limited the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest and deport illegal immigrants.
The administration also ended the Migrant Protection Protocols -- a key policy of the Trump administration which saw migrants returned to Mexico as their hearings progressed. It was seen as central in ending the practice of "catch and release."
However, the Supreme Court upheld a federal court ruling that the Biden administration ended the program unlawfully, and ordered it restored. The filing came as part of that ongoing litigation.
While the administration has complied with the order, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has issued a memo indicating that the agency will end the policy -- which critics have decried as cruel -- in a manner that complies with the court ruling.
Fox News' Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.