Washington (AFP) – The number of migrants detained entering the United States from Mexico without documents in April topped 100,000 for the second month in a row, US border officials said Wednesday.
“Our apprehension numbers are off the charts compared to recent years,” Carla Provost, the chief of the US Border Patrol, told a Senate hearing on border security.
“As of April 30, we apprehended 460,294 people on the southern border,” Provost said.
“As of Sunday, only seven months into the (fiscal) year, we have now surpassed the total southwest border apprehensions of every fiscal year since 2009,” she said.
In April, 109,144 migrants were apprehended or deemed inadmissible at the US-Mexico border, according to US Customs and Border Protection figures, up from 103,719 in March. In February, the total was 76,534.
Provost said border officials were picking up increasing numbers of families and unaccompanied children trying to cross into the United States from Mexico.
“The number of family units and unaccompanied children has skyrocketed to 64 percent of southern border apprehensions,” she said.
“These populations present significant challenges,” the US border chief said.
“For the first time in border control history nearly half the adults we apprehended in April brought children,” she said.
“They have received the message loud and clear — bring a child and you will be released,” Provost said.
“Our short-term holding units are beyond capacity,” she continued.
“It’s like holding a bucket under a faucet,” she said of the challenge of securing the border. “It doesn’t matter how many buckets you give me if we can’t turn off the flow.”
President Donald Trump, who made immigration a central theme of his 2016 White House campaign, has expressed frustration over the continuing influx of migrants, most of whom are fleeing endemic poverty and violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Trump launched a sweeping shakeup last month of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border policing activities, and he has deployed thousands of troops to the US-Mexico frontier in a bid to stop the flow.