Newly released images of holding centers along the southern border reveal migrants packed together amid disturbing conditions as the Biden administration grapples with the ongoing illegal immigration crisis.
In November, US Customs and Border Protection officials encountered 173,620 individuals along the US-Mexico border, up 5 percent from the number in October.
While officials have not yet released data on encounters in December, images of obtained by the Washington Examiner show severe overcrowding in tight quarters stoking high COVID-19 infection rates.
The images depict thousands of migrants stranded at border facilities in CBP’s Yuma Sector in western Arizona, where more than 1,500 people were in custody at one point last week.
More than 65,000 migrants were apprehended in Yuma Sector between September and November.
In some parts of the facilities, people cannot lie down without touching other people. Some migrants have been forced to gather outside the facilities, sheltering under makeshift tents made of Mylar blankets, police caution tape and sand bags while enduring near-freezing temperatures at night.
Other images show luggage being thrown into piles in the facilities, further crowding already cramped areas as families line the hallways. While many migrants were pictured wearing masks, several were seen without face coverings.
Those held in the facilities are usually discharged into the US, returned to their home country or forced back into Mexico within a day or two after being taken into custody.
Rafa Rivera, regional president of the National Border Patrol Council, told the Washington Examiner that while border crossings usually slow during the holiday season, they were “constant” in the Yuma Sector this Christmas.
It is unclear how large a migration surge border officials saw last month – if they did at all – as the data has not been released.
Rivera warned that the influx of migrants and poor conditions in the facilities have compromised federal public health protocols as the US sees a massive surge in positive COVID-19 cases nationwide.
He claimed that infections are constant among Border Patrol agents, but the extent of the spread among detainees is not known — since only migrants who report symptoms or other health problems are given tests before being discharged.
Amid the chaos, the Department of Homeland Security recently came under scrutiny for quietly releasing a much-anticipated report on the expected departures and overstays of migrants in the US during FY 2020. The Department appeared to release the data on Jan. 4, however the document was backdated to make it appear as if it was released to the public in September 2021.
The report revealed that expected departures of migrants from the US in 2020 were more than 17 percent lower than the previous year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The document was submitted to Congress on Sept. 30 of last year, according to the Washington Free Beacon, and the administration was heavily criticized for not releasing it shortly thereafter.
Through past screengrabs of the website, The Post was able to confirm that the Department did not publicly post the report until this month.
While the report does not include immigration data past September 2020, its delayed release only adds to evidence of the administration’s chaotic handling of border issues.
In FY 2021, which ended Sept. 30 of last year, CBP encountered approximately 1.72 million migrants along the border. According to the agency, approximately 62 percent of those were expelled under Title 42 public health authority.
Migrant encounters steadily increased throughout the beginning of President Biden’s first year in office until they hit their peak of over 213,000 in July. Apprehensions then declined for three consecutive months before spiking again in November.