The number of migrant encounters at the southern border hit a new record in May, with an overwhelming 239,416 encounters, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced late Wednesday -- just as officials fear that the already unprecedented numbers will keep rising through the summer months.
The 239,416 migrant encounters eclipses the 180,597 encountered in May 2021 and the 23,237 encountered in May 2020. It is also higher than the 235,478 encountered in April 2022, which itself set a new record for encounters.
The massive numbers came during a month in which the Biden administration sought to end expulsions under the Title 42 health order -- which were implemented during the Trump administration due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been used to expel a majority of migrants at the border.
The Biden administration was ultimately blocked by a federal judge from ending the order. Expulsions continued throughout May, although the percentage of those dipped -- with just 42% of those encountered expelled under the order. Of the migrants encountered, 55% of all single adults were expelled and just 17% of migrant families were expelled.
Despite the fraction of the number of family units expelled, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement that: "Current restrictions at the U.S. border have not changed: single adults and families encountered at the Southwest Border will continue to be expelled, where appropriate, under Title 42."
"As temperatures start to rise in the summer, human smugglers will continue to exploit vulnerable populations and recklessly endanger the lives of migrants for financial gain. The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving," he said. "Our message to those who would try and gain illegal entry to the United States remains the same – don’t make the dangerous journey only to be sent back."
Meanwhile, those numbers are just a snapshot of the crisis at the border, which has engulfed the administration since shortly after coming into office and that has overwhelmed Border Patrol agents – where morale is said to be at an all-time low.
A high-level CBP source told Fox News that there have been 440,000 known gotaways since the fiscal year began in October -- with over 50,000 in May alone. Combined with the 400,000 known gotaways since the beginning of FY 2021, that means that more than 800,000 illegal immigrants have gotten past agents since October 2020 -- more than the entire population of Seattle.
At the end of May, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also urged migrants not to make the journey while conceding that agents were facing "historic" numbers at the border.
"And numbers could rise further," Mayorkas said. "From confusion over recent court orders and as smuggle continue to peddle misinformation to make a profit: we are prepared."
The Biden administration is still looking to end the Title 42 health order, a move that many agents and officials believe will likely lead to a surge in the number of migrants coming to the border. However, administration officials have claimed that after a short-term surge, numbers would actually decrease over time once criminal penalties for illegal entry are reimposed and the administration shifts to expedited removal.
Meanwhile, it is continuing to push its "root cause" explanation of the crisis, arguing that the strategy to solving the crisis is to tackle the root causes like poverty, climate change and violence and corruption in Central America.
Vice President Harris has been leading that effort, and recently touted major investments from the private sector in the region in response to her "Call to Action." This month will also mark a year since the vice president said that there had been "extreme progress" made by the administration.
Meanwhile, President Biden last week announced a slew of U.S. commitments related to visas, funding and other migration issues at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. That effort was marred by the decision of the leaders of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to skip the conference.