The number of families caught entering the country illegally at the southwest border in May increased sixfold compared with the same month in 2017. But despite that increase, some of Texas’ historically busiest areas for illegal crossings have seen an overall decrease this fiscal year.
The number of family units who were apprehended or turned themselves in to border agents on the southwest border from October 2017 to May was 59,113, according to statistics released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That represents a slight decrease from the 61,809 apprehended during the same time frame in the federal government's 2017 fiscal year, which runs from October to September.
The statistics come during a nationwide outcry from Democrats and immigrant rights groups over a recently adopted policy where parents caught crossing illegally en route to seek asylum are incarcerated and separated from their minor children. The family separations have prompted a class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The statistics show that the overall figures in family unit apprehensions represent a drop in Texas's busiest border sectors during the same time-frame comparison: The Big Bend and Del Rio sectors of the U.S. Border Patrol recorded a 19 and 24 percent drop, respectively, while the El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sectors saw a drop of 36, 48 and 10 percent.
The figures for May, however, show a surge in family unit apprehensions across the southwest border. Last month, 9,485 family units were caught or turned themselves in, compared with 1,580 in May 2017. The El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors saw significant increases in May: In 2017 agents recorded 166 and 973 family unit apprehensions, respectively. That's compared to 898 and 6,630 last month.
The Department of Homeland Security said the figures justify the recent deployment of the National Guard to the area, the push for a border wall and the need for Congress to close "loopholes" in immigration laws that prompt asylum seekers to enter the country illegally.
"These numbers show that while the Trump administration is restoring the rule of law, it will take a sustained effort and continuous commitment of resources over many months to disrupt cartels, smugglers, and nefarious actors," DHS press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement. "We are taking action and will be referring and then prosecuting 100 percent of illegal border crossers, we are building the first new border wall in a decade, and we have deployed the National Guard to the border."
The number of unaccompanied children trying to enter the country has increased slightly during the current fiscal year. From October 2017 to May of this year, 32,372 were encountered by border agents, compared to 2017's 31,063. Those figures represent a 4 percent increase. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, that figure shows a 22 percent decrease, though the Big Bend, El Paso and Laredo sectors saw increases of 78, 9 and 48 percent during the same time frame.