DEL RIO, Texas—Throughout the pandemic, this border city’s Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition has typically assisted about 25 migrants a week who enter the U.S. illegally with their families and seek asylum.

In the last week of January, 341 migrants passed through its center, quickly overtaxing the organization’s resources and leaving it nearly out of supplies, said its director of operations, Tiffany Burrow. Del Rio briefly turned its civic center into an emergency shelter last month to help 50 people who had to wait overnight for buses to depart the border city.

Federal authorities and aid groups say the number of families illegally crossing into the U.S. and being rapidly released from immigration custody and dropped off in border towns is rising fast. Local officials and aid groups say they haven’t seen such large releases of migrants since 2019, when U.S. border officials were overwhelmed by migrant families seeking asylum.

In January, U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 7,260 people traveling as families, compared with about 4,500 in December. The last time so many migrant families were arrested was in December 2019.

Some of the illegal border crossers say they are coming in anticipation of less harsh treatment by the Biden administration than under President Donald Trump.

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