U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reports that 76,103 migrants appeared at ports of entry and illegally crossed between ports in February. This is the largest number of apprehensions and inadmissible migrants for a February reporting period in 12 years, CBP stated Tuesday.
Of the 76,103 migrants who came to the border seeking admission or illegally crossing between ports of entry, 62 percent were family units and unaccompanied minors. This presents both a border security and humanitarian crisis at our southwest border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
United States Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings told reporters that during February, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 66,000 migrants who illegally crossed the border from Mexico between ports of entry. This is up from nearly 48,000 in January — a nearly 40 percent increase. When compared to the first five months of Fiscal Year 2018, this fiscal year has seen a 97 percent increase, he stated.
“A lot of folks look at that and they say, ‘we have seen numbers like that in the past,” Hastings explained. He said that many people do not understand the “significant change in the demographics of what we are seeing today is what presents us and our partners with a lot of challenges.”
The Border Patrol operations chief said that historically, agents have apprehended about 70 to 90 percent Mexican nationals. “We could apply a consequence to that demographic,” he stated. “We could return them quickly to Mexico.”
“Today, 70 percent of all of those we are arresting are from the (Central American) northern triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras,” Hastings continued. He explained that under current laws and court rulings there is no consequence to these migrants and they are nearly all released into the U.S. for an indefinite period of time.
“Without being able to deliver a consequence to these individuals for crossing our border, the Border Patrol has no reason to expect that this trend will decrease — in fact, we believe it will increase,” he surmised. “It’s well known at this time that immigrants with children will not be detained during the immigration proceedings. The word of mouth and social media quickly gets back to those in the northern triangle countries that ‘If you bring a child, you’ll be successful.”
Due to these circumstances, the number of cases of people falsely claiming to be family units has increased substantially. “From April 2018 through February 2019 we have had almost 2,400 fraudulent claims of families,” the operations chief explained. “Of those fraudulent claims, some are people who claim they are under 18 and they’re not. Others have actually been fraudulent familial claims.”
So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol agents apprehended 136,150 migrants claiming to be family units and 26,937 people claiming to be unaccompanied minors, according to the February Southwest Border Migration Report released Tuesday afternoon. This is a total of 163,087 family unit aliens (FMUA) and unaccompanied minors so far this year. In all of Fiscal Year 2018, Border Patrol agents only apprehended 157,248, the 2018 Southwest Border Migration Report stated.
Hastings and Commissioner McAleenan explained that these demographics present substantial challenges for the Border Patrol and CBP. In addition to the demographics, they explained that transnational criminal organizations (Mexican cartels) are shifting the crossing points to the most remote areas of the El Paso, Tucson, and Yuma Border Patrol Sectors and are crossing them in much larger groups in order to tie up Border Patrol resources.
The El Paso Sector witnessed a 1,697 percent increase in the number of family units apprehended in remote areas like the Antelope Wells crossing area. The Yuma and Tucson Sectors have both witnessed increases in excess of 230 percent. Other unsecured areas of the border including the Del Rio Sector in Texas saw an increase of nearly 400 percent over the previous February.
Commissioner McAleenan announced the formation of a new migrant processing center for the El Paso Sector to “provide one location for the processing of family units and children.”
The commissioner cautioned that the new facilities for processing migrants “will assist with managing the increased flows … The fact is that these solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable. Remote locations of the United States border are not safe places to cross and they are not places to seek medical care.”