The U.S. last year made a record 1.7 million arrests of migrants at the southern border, as the pandemic erased hundreds of millions of jobs globally.

A record 1.7 million migrants from around the world, many of them fleeing pandemic-ravaged countries, were encountered trying to enter the United States illegally in the last 12 months, capping a year of chaos at the southern border, which has emerged as one of the most formidable challenges for the Biden administration.

Over the last 12 months, the Border Patrol has carried out more than one million expulsions of migrants back to Mexico or to the migrants’ home countries.

The Border Patrol released nearly 250,000 migrants into the country, including some with instructions to appear before an immigration judge for removal proceedings, according to Customs and Border Protection.

Southern border apprehensions previously reached such high levels in the late 1990s, peaking in 2000, when many migrants who entered the country unlawfully were drawn to jobs in construction, food processing and restaurants.

The data released on Friday also shows a sharp increase in the number of Haitian migrants who crossed last month – more than 17,000, or 38 percent of the total number of Haitians who were caught crossing illegally over the past 12 months.

In all, the Biden administration used the rule to turn away 54 percent of all the migrants caught crossing illegally last month.

The program has been criticized for subjecting thousands of migrant families to violence, including kidnappings for ransom, in Mexican border towns controlled by drug cartels.

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