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The main detention center for unaccompanied children crossing the border is an overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 kids and families are kept in pods, with the youngest kept in a large play pen with mats on the floor for sleeping. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills/Pool via Getty Images

More than 170,000 migrants were taken into custody at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the highest monthly total since at least 2006, according to preliminary data obtained by the New York Times and Washington Post.

Why it matters: "The extraordinary increase — up from 78,442 in January — underscores the magnitude of the challenge facing the Biden administration," the Post notes.

By the numbers: Border officials encountered more than 18,700 unaccompanied children and teenagers at the border in March — nearly double the 9,450 taken into custody in February, per the Times. About 3,490 minors were taken into custody in February 2020.

  • The number of encounters of migrants traveling as families climbed to more than 53,000 last month, up from 19,246 in February and 7,294 in January, per the Post, citing the preliminary numbers.
  • Of note: The numbers could change as the data is finalized, officials told the Post and Times.

The big picture: President Biden has attributed the sharp upward trend to seasonal patterns. But "the precipitous influx during the first two months of his term has a more vertical growth curve than any comparable span over the past two decades," the Post writes.

  • Biden has retained Trump's controversial, pandemic-era "Title 42" rule, which allows border agents to turn away migrants without hearing requests for asylum. Unaccompanied minors are exempt, however.
  • In March, nearly 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children were held in border patrol custody for over 10 days — more than a fourfold increase from the prior week.
  • The detention centers are not meant to house children for more than three days, but the recent surge of unaccompanied minors at the border has overwhelmed capacity. The surge in border crossings by minors is expected to last at least seven months.

What's next: The Department of Health and Human Services has opened or is preparing to open nine emergency facilities for minors while it screens people in the U.S. who can take custody of the children, the Post reports.

Go deeper: Hundreds of migrant kids with positive COVID-19 tests held in shelters

Go deeper

Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill demanding a border surge plan

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.). Photo: Justin Hamel/AFP via Getty Images

A bipartisan bill introduced Thursday would require the Department of Homeland Security to make a plan for managing surges at the U.S.-Mexico border, which could unlock emergency funds.

Why it matters: Bipartisan agreement on immigration is rare, but both Republicans and a handful of Democrats have expressed concern about the mounting humanitarian crisis at the border.

Coyotes reveal their secrets on how they cross the U.S.-Mexico border

Crosses left by border activists mark the locations where the remains of migrants were discovered in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Two men who work as coyotes, or human smugglers, told Noticias Telemundo that for those desperate enough, a payment of $8,000 each will suffice to get them into the U.S. through the desert.

Details: To cross people by car, hiding them in secret compartments, they’ll charge up to $20,000 because the coyotes swear U.S. immigration officers get a cut to turn a blind eye.

Senate Democrats demand answers on FBI's Kavanaugh probe

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats are demanding that the FBI hand over "all records and communications" related to the FBI tip line set up to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee in 2018.

Why it matters: The ask comes after the FBI revealed it received more than 4,500 tips about Kavanaugh when he was awaiting Senate confirmation amid sexual assault allegations. Only the most "relevant" of these tips were forwarded to the Trump White House.

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