Illegal immigration across the southwest border is on pace for the worst year since 2007 — or the last time the country began a massive wall-building spree — according to new Homeland Security numbers.
Four months into the fiscal year the Border Patrol nabbed nearly 201,500 people, compared to about 109,500 at the same point in the previous year. If that 84 percent surge holds, it works out to 733,000 immigrants crossing illegally for fiscal year 2019, which would be by far the highest numbers in more than a decade.
And the new surge is comprised of migrant families and children, which are a much tougher population to combat, thanks to U.S. policies imposed by Congress and the courts that make it tougher to deport them.
“Family units and unaccompanied children from Central America are crossing the border illegally in greater numbers and in larger groups than ever before, straining our law enforcement resources,” said Brian Hastings, U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Operations. “These trends are very concerning and demonstrate the reality of the ongoing humanitarian and border security crisis.”
The number of families nabbed through the first four months of fiscal year 2019 is up 290 percent compared to the same point in 2018, authorities said, with mini-caravans of hundreds of people now a regular occurrence.
Late last week in Arizona, agents spotted a group of 325 people who’d jumped the border in remote desert country west of Lukeville.
That’s an area where there’s no border wall, but rather low-slung metal poles and crossbars that are meant to stop vehicles. They are easy for someone on foot to step over or crawl under.
Of the 325, 150 were children — and 32 of them unaccompanied, meaning they were traveling without their parents.
It took agents several hours to do an initial health screen, then pack the migrants into vans and take them to take them to a staging area where they could be picked up by buses and taken to a Border Patrol facility for processing.
During the medical screen, two children were deemed to need immediate medical attention: One 5-year-old had chicken pox, and a 12-year-old had a skin infection.
Members of the mini-caravan said they’d been dropped off by buses and trucks that used Mexican Federal Highway 2, a high-speed road that runs a parallel track just 50 yards south of the border, to deliver them. They massed, then crossed as a group at 8 a.m. on Thursday, and sat to wait for agents to find them.
A day later and several hundred miles to the east, agents arrested 290 people in a mini-caravan near Antelope Wells, New Mexico.