At a press briefing conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday, numbers were offered that showed how urgently U.S. Border Patrol needs help, including the fact that in February alone, the Border Patrol executed over 66,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants.
Brian Hastings, chief of operations at Border Control headquarters, stated that in February, U.S. Border Patrol executed over 66,000 apprehensions; since October there have been over 268,000 apprehensions, a 97% increase over the previous fiscal year to that point. Hastings noted that some people said there were comparable numbers in the past, but Hastings pointed out that the demographics are different now, as in the past the immigrants were primarily from Mexico, and thus returning them was not as difficult, while presently the bulk of immigrants are coming from what he called the “northern triangle” of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
He stated, “Historically the U.S. Border Patrol has arrested 70 to 90% Mexican nationals; we could apply a consequence to that demographic; we could return them quickly to Mexico. Today 70% of all those we are arresting are from the northern triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.” He continued, “October 2018 marked the first time in our history that family units exceeded single adult apprehensions, and in February of 2019 family units and unaccompanied children accounted for 65% of all Border Patrol apprehensions."
Hastings warned, “So without a consequence, without being able to deliver a consequence to these individuals for illegally crossing our borders, the Border Patrol has no reason to expect that this trend will decrease; in fact, we believe it will increase. It’s well known at this time that adults with children will not be detained during the immigration proceedings for illegal entry; the word of mouth in social media quickly gets back to those in the northern triangle countries that if you bring a child, you will be successful. From April 2018 through February 2019, we’ve had almost 2,400 fraudulent claims of families. Of those fraudulent claims, some are folks who have claimed they are under 18 and they’re not; others have actually been fraudulent familial claims.”
Hastings noted that in the current fiscal year there have already been 70 groups of over 100 people, yielding over 12,000 apprehensions. He noted that the previous year there were 13 such groups; the year before that only two. He also pointed out that the large groups are entering through rugged terrain in Arizona and New Mexico that is quite far from the central processing areas, medical services, and transportation services the U.S. has. Hastings added that drug cartels are using the large groups to distract Border Patrol agents so that the cartels can conduct their transport and machinations unimpeded.
Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan added, “It should be very clear from these numbers that 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. This increased flow presents, currently at our highest level in over a decade, both a border security and humanitarian crisis.”
He warned, “The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point."
McAleenan concluded, “Every single day, smugglers and traffickers profit from human misery, exploiting people who are seeking a better life. Through human smuggling, transnational criminal organizations have established a new multi-billion dollar line of business. The situation is not safe for migrants; it challenges our ability to provide humanitarian care; it contributes to dangerous conditions on our border, and enables smuggling while enriching criminals. Regardless of anyone’s preferred policy outcome, the status quo is unacceptable. It presents an urgent and increasing crisis that needs to be addressed.