Almost 180,000 migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico were detained by the US border authorities in December, according to official figures published on Monday, bringing the total number of detentions at the US southern border in 2021 to almost two million – a record of sorts.
Illegal immigration to the US, which had nosedived since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, has soared again, especially in the first year of the Joe Biden administration.
The flow of migrants peaked in July with around 213,000 crossings, and then declined for three following months. November again saw the surge in border crossings, at 173,620 individuals.
Biden had promised a more humane approach toward undocumented migrants during his election campaign, while criticizing his predecessor Donald Trump’s migration policy.
His arrival in the White House saw a wave of migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. However, with the passage of time, his policy has turned out to be no different from his predecessor.
Biden has continued Trump’s pandemic-related border restrictions, known as the Title 42 policy.
Under this policy, the US government is allowed to expel any number of immigrants without giving them access to apply for asylum in the country.
In July, the US Department of Homeland Security reported an extraordinary number of 200,000 migrant arrests at the hottest season of the year.
Republicans have blamed the Democratic President for an endless migrant surge at the border, accusing his administration of creating a “historic humanitarian crisis."
"On their watch, cartels and smugglers are thriving, border officials are overwhelmed, our communities are less safe," said Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement.
On his first day in office, President Biden had unveiled immigration reform legislation, paving the way for legal citizenship of 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US.
The legislation was stalled in the Congress, deemed a controversial issue with midterm November elections fast approaching.
Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden appointed as his point person for addressing immigration issues in March last year, has come under severe criticism for her inept handling of the crisis.