Border Patrol officials in the Tucson Sector said human smugglers are using large Central American migrant groups to tie up border security resources and disrupt operations.
“Smuggling organizations have expanded their exploitation of Central Americans to unprecedented levels,” Tucson Sector Chief Roy Villareal said in a written statement. “By transporting these large groups of families to remote desert areas, it’s clear they have little regard for the safety and well-being of these families. Their sole intent is to disrupt border security efforts.”
As an example, officials reported that Ajo Station Border Patrol agents apprehended a group of 102 Central American migrant families and unaccompanied minors. After being dropped off by human smugglers just south of the Arizona border, the migrants exploited outdated border vehicle barriers and simply walked into the U.S., officials stated.
The group of migrants traveled to the U.S. from Guatemala and Honduras. More than half consisted of children. Officials said 12 of the migrant children crossed the border as unaccompanied minors.
“Illicit transnational criminal organizations exploit the vulnerability of foreign nationals with false promises of legal status and encourage dangerous border crossings, placing lives at risk,” officials stated.
Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 4,921 migrant families and 2,144 unaccompanied minors during the first five months of Fiscal Year 2019 which began on October 1, 2018. This represents an increase of more than 200 percent over the same period in Fiscal Year 2018, according to the February Southwest Border Migration Report published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Nationally, agents apprehended more than 136,000 migrant families and nearly 27,000 unaccompanied minors, an increase of more than 300 percent over the previous year.
In the nine Border Patrol sectors that make up the U.S. southwestern border with Mexico, agents apprehended a total of 268,044 migrants.