WASHINGTON — Border officials say large groups of migrants consisting primarily of families and unaccompanied children are the new normal of illegal crossings into the United States from Mexico — setting a new yearly record just months into the current fiscal year.
According to Customs and Border Protection officials, 136,150 individuals claiming to be in families were arrested illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since fiscal year 2019 started on Oct. 1, 2018. That is more than the number of arrests in the same groups for fiscal 2018, CBP officials said Tuesday.
“The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” Kevin McAleenan, Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said during a press conference on the new data.
Overall, 237,327 migrants had been apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border since the fiscal year began in October. That is a 97 percent increase from the previous year time frame, CPS officials said.
And for the first time, the largest group of those crossing are no longer Mexican nationals, officials said. Now the majority of the families are coming from Guatemala and Honduras, officials said — a trek made easier with regular bus transportation.
CBP Chief of Operations Brian Hastings said that in fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, 2018, 70 large groups of more than 100 migrants totaling more than 12,000 individuals were apprehended. That compared to 13 large groups of more than 100 in fiscal 2017 and two large groups of more than 100 in fiscal 2016, he said.
Hastings said the newest groups are targeting the most remote sections of the U.S.-Mexico border to cross. “They are the furthest from our processing centers, medical centers, transportation services,” he said, increasing the challenge for CBP. He estimated that 87 percent are crossing in the more remote areas.
He said CPS also has an infrastructure challenge since the bulk of its facilities were constructed to deal with the previous demographic majority — mostly single men from Mexico. Today it is families and unaccompanied minors, he said.
“Taken together, these numbers are remarkable,” Hastings said.
He also said an average of 55 people a day are provided medical care. So far in fiscal 2019, 31,000 migrants have been provided medical care compared to 12,000 during fiscal 2018, he said.