However, U.S immigration officials increased deportations and expelled more than half of those who were taken into government custody under rules first established by the Trump administration.
The CBP figures reveal that the U.S. border authorities had 164,973 migrant arrests last month compared with 153,941 detentions for January. The number of migrants expelled under a 2020 pandemic-era restriction rose 17% to 91 513 in February, representing 55% of all border encounters.
The increase in immigration arrests at the Mexican border was due to a significant rise in migrants arriving from Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba.
CBP processed single adult migrants 126151 times last month. This is 11% more than January. Officials also reported a 16% decrease in family arrivals, as 26582 children and parents were processed together. In February, just over 12,000 children unaccompanied entered U.S. border custody. This is a slight increase on January.
The February arrests of Mexican migrants rose 18% to 71210, while the arrivals of Guatemalans grew by 31% to 18,175. Record numbers of Cubans and Colombians crossed the border to the United States. This surpasses previous records for Central American countries. Around 16,500 migrants came from Cuba, and 9600 from Colombia. They were taken into custody by the U.S.
CBP officers also processed 13,887 migrants out of Honduras, 13,295 immigrants from Nicaragua, and 7,116 from El Salvador. The agency statistics show.
An 86% decrease in Venezuelans crossing the border to the United States in a monthly basis was offset by an increase in arrivals from certain countries. U.S. immigration officers processed 22,779 Venezuelan migrants on January and 24,805 on December, an all time monthly record. This number fell to 3,072 in February.
The sudden drop in Venezuelan arrivals to the southern border coincides in part with Mexico's January move to impose visa requirements for Venezuelans. This was at the request from the U.S. and fueled a decrease in U.S. arrests in migrants from these countries flying to Mexico City from their home countries before they reached the southern border.
CBP data released Tuesday shows that the Biden administration used Trump-era Title 42 border expulsion policy to expel migrants over 1.2 million times in just 13 months.
Title 42, the first policy approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020, has seen an unusually high number of repeat border crossings. This is because some migrants attempt to enter the U.S. multiple time after being expelled from northern Mexico.
The U.S. border officers processed 30% of illegal migrants crossing the border in February. This is significantly more than the 14% pre-pandemic repeat cross rate.
Advocates for asylum-seekers deem the Title 42 policy illegal because Title 42 immigrants are either returned to Mexico or flown back to their home countries to file for asylum. The Biden administration however has stated that it is necessary in order to reduce COVID-19 epidemics at border detention centers.
The decision of the Biden administration to continue expulsions has been under increasing legal scrutiny. vocal criticism came from top Democrats in Congress, including Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer who last week called Title 42 "disastrous for asylum-seekers."
Two legal defeats were suffered by the Title 42 plans earlier this month. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., prohibited the expulsion migrant families to areas where they could be hurt. And a Texas judge ruled that officials couldn't exempt unaccompanied children.
The CDC Director Rochelle Walsky rescinded her Title 42 directives, which were applicable to unaccompanied children. She stated that they weren't necessary because of widespread vaccine availability, testing, and improved pandemic conditions.
The Washington federal appeals court ruling has yet to take effect. If it is upheld, it will require U.S. officials interview migrants' families to make sure they won't be persecuted if they are expelled. This could prompt the administration, or even to end Title 42.
The CDC is expected to complete a Title 42 reassessment by March. This will determine whether U.S. Border Agents should continue to expel migrant families and adults traveling with children.