US Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 36,000 families in February at the southern border, a new monthly record for the agency grappling with a surging number of parents and children arriving in remote areas.
More than 76,000 migrants crossed the US-Mexico border without authorization in February, according to US Customs and Border Protection, more than double the number encountered last February.
In addition to the record number of family units arriving at the border, agents also apprehended nearly 7,000 unaccompanied children, a number that has been steadily increasing for the last five months.
“We are facing alarming trends in the rising volume of people illegally crossing our southwest border or arriving at our ports of entry without documents,” Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, told reporters. “This increase flow presents, currently at our highest levels in over a decade, both a border security and humanitarian crisis.”
Border Patrol agents are encountering an increasing number of families in remote areas of the border. So far this fiscal year, agents have seen 70 groups of 100 or more people that totaled more than 12,000 apprehensions.
By comparison, Border Patrol agents encountered 13 large groups last year and just two in fiscal year 2017.
Researchers and advocates believe the increase in migrant families in remote areas of the border is fueled by the US limiting how many asylum seekers it can process daily. Facing a weeks or months-long wait in Mexico for the chance to request asylum, some families are opting to cross in between official border crossings.
The remote and rugged areas migrant groups are crossing through present a problem for agents because they’re the farthest away from processing centers, medical services, and transportation. These families and unaccompanied children are not trying to evade capture, McAleenan said, and instead seek out Border Patrol agents.
McAleenan said the migrants, the majority from Central America, are taking “express bus routes” to the US border that’s resulting in more children showing up with illnesses and medical condition in “unprecedented” numbers.
Following the deaths of two children from Guatemala who died in CBP custody, McAleenan said the agency has required health screenings for migrant kids. He also announced a new processing center in El Paso, Texas, where families and children can be processed and receive medical attention in one location.
McAleenan blamed immigration laws and court rulings that don’t allow the US to quickly deport Central Americans and forbids authorities from detaining families with children for more than 20 days.
“The message from smuggling organizations to parents in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is clear,” McAleenan said. “If you bring a child you will gain entry to the United States and you will be allowed to stay.”
Source : BuzzFeed News