(NewsNation) — A new Department of Homeland Security report confirmed by NewsNation sources says that after Title 42 expires next month, migrant encounters could spike by a factor of two or even three times what they are now.
Title 42, the COVID-19 provision used to expel many undocumented migrants who illegally cross into the U.S, is set to expire in May.
In the month of January, immigration authorities had about 154,000 migrant encounters. In February, there were 165,000.
In March, immigration authorities stopped migrants 221,303 times along the Southwest border, a 33% increase from a month earlier, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Local and state officials believe they could be seeing more than half a million migrant encounters per month once Title 42 goes away. This is on pace to surpass the two million encounter benchmark that was hit last year.
A backlog of people waiting outside the country to seek asylum, as well as dire economic and political conditions in much of Latin America and the Caribbean, is partially responsible for the increase in migrants.
“The question is, is it sustainable?” asked Texas DPS Lt. Christopher Olivarez. “And it’s very difficult, it’s very challenging, even Border Patrol; they’re just so overwhelmed.”
Local and state law enforcement officers here say they simply need more resources.
On the one hand, state law enforcement says the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy needs to be re-implemented and they’d like to see wall construction improve, as well.
But on the other side of the coin, foreign relations need to be a consideration. Local law enforcement would like to see more of an effort made to take the issue to the respective countries of origin.
“We have individuals from over 157 countries that are coming across our border,” Olivarez said. “It’s not just triangle countries … there needs to be more pressure on those governments by our own federal government.”
American border communities coexist with their counterpart communities in Mexico and it’s common for people to go back and forth.
Onesimo Romero is from Mexico originally, and does it all the time — but emphasizes he does it legally.
“I think that if you go through the appropriate process, you should be given a chance. But opening it up for everybody? I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said.
Yesenia Rodriguez goes back and forth, as well, and she doesn’t want to see the surge anywhere near her community.
“I do feel for them,” she said. “But I just don’t want them to come here. Go to another part.”
Migrants at the border are largely coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador but also, so far this year, more than 7,000 Ukrainians have been encountered at the southwest border. There were 5,000 just last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.