The fiscal year ending in September officially brought the second highest influx of illegal immigrant families and unaccompanied youths, according to new government data.
During September, the final month of the fiscal year, nearly 10,000 unaccompanied minors and family unit members were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. through the southern border. That is, Border Patrol intercepted 4,476 unaccompanied minors and 5,273 family unit members.
The continued run on the border brought the final tally of unaccompanied youths and family unit members apprehended illegally entering the U.S. in FY 2015 to 39,970 and 39,838, respectively.
The total represented a decrease compared to the record-busting year before, in which Border Patrol apprehended 68,541 unaccompanied minors and 68,445 family units illegally entering the U.S.
Border Patrol pointed to the overall decrease in apprehensions but noted that the past several months has seen an increase in unaccompanied children and family units over prior years.
The agency said “DHS is closely monitoring this situation along with its interagency partners” and argued that violence and poor economic conditions in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are serving to push the migration northward.
“Our renewed public awareness campaign continues to distribute information to Central American and Mexican communities emphasizing the dangers of the journey, dispelling misinformation about our immigration policies, and underscoring that those attempting to come here illegally are a top priority for removal,” CBP said in a statement.
“We are aware that smugglers, or ‘coyotes,’ often use misinformation about current immigration policies and practices to lure individuals seeking to cross the border illegally to employ their services,” it added.
While Border Patrol’s apprehensions are high, they are not able to intercept all illegal entries. Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera told a House panel this week that the apprehensions represent just a fraction of the entrances, with about 60 percent of illegals making it into the U.S. without being caught.
“Most believe they will either not be caught, or even if they are caught, they will not be deported back to their home country,” Cabrera testified Wednesday.
According to Cabrera, the inflow — largely from Central America — has been driven by the current catch-and-release policy, in which illegal immigrants Central America are released into the U.S. while their immigration cases slowly work their way through the courts.
“The UAC and family groups we detain are acutely aware we will not hold them until they are adjudicated. They know that they will be released and issued a notice to appear,” he said. “What we have right now is essentially a catch-and-release policy. This, coupled with the violence and instability in their home country, is what’s driving the continued flow into the United States.”