The surge of unaccompanied minors and family units illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border continued at even higher rates during the month of December, according to new data from Customs and Border Protection.
In December 8,994 adults and children traveling as “family units” and 6,782 unaccompanied minors were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. The new figures represent a striking increase over the already high levels logged in October and November.
As of December 31, 21,469 family unit members and 17,370 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the border this fiscal year, which began in October.
The apprehensions of family units this fiscal year to date are 187 percent higher than they were over the same time frame last fiscal year when 7,468 family unit members were detained.
Among unaccompanied minors, the story is similar. The apprehensions to date this fiscal year are 117 percent higher than they were during the same three-month period last fiscal year, when 7,987 unaccompanied youths were apprehended.
If the pace seen in December — of approximately 290 family unit members and about 218 unaccompanied minor apprehensions a day — continues, by the end of this fiscal year more than 100,900 family unit members and 77,000 unaccompanied minors will have illegally entered the U.S. via the southern border.
The shocking increase has the Obama administration eyeing military bases and other government buildings to house the onslaught of migrants, unaccompanied youths in particular. The administration has also embarked on an effort — though relatively small — to deport recently arrived family units who have been issued final orders of removal but remain in the U.S. illegally.
The Obama administration has come under fire for seeking to deport the family units said to be fleeing violence in Central America. However, the reported effort to date has so far been meager, with just 121 illegal immigrants detained for removal compared to the nearly 300,000 unaccompanied minors and adults with children who have have been apprehended illegally entering the U.S. through the southern border since FY 2013.
Democrats have decried the removal effort, blaming the “push” factors of poverty and violence in home countries for the migration north. Republicans have blamed the Obama administration’s lax immigration policies, refusal to enforce immigration law, and executive amnesty as “pull factors” enticing illegal immigration.
The renewed border surge is likely to become another flash-point in the 2016 presidential cycle, in a race where illegal immigration has become a rallying cry for candidates like Donald Trump.
This week Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton joined the rest of the Democratic field in opposing the Obama administration’s raids on illegal immigrant family units.
Last week, DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson addressed criticisms of the raids by saying, “We must enforce the law consistent with our priorities. At all times, we endeavor to do this consistent with American values, and basic principles of decency, fairness, and humanity.”