Southern border family arrests break record in November

Apprehensions of migrant family members who illegally crossed the southern border into the US broke another record in November, according to monthly Customs and Border Protection statistics released Thursday.

This is the third month in a row that family apprehensions have set a record, according to available data going back to 2013.

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Overall apprehensions, however, remained relatively stagnant from October, ticking slightly up from 51,001 to 51,856, and came nowhere close to setting a record. In the early to mid-2000s, there were months when well over 100,000 migrants were apprehended illegally crossing the southern border.

What has changed is the demographics of the undocumented migrants coming over the Mexico-US border.

The US is “continuing to see family groups percentage-wise continue to rise,” said a CBP official in Texas. The official said the uptick in families has been “really stretching resources,” everything from transportation to processing to medical care.

The official added that while the families and minors are not necessarily a threat, genuine threats can slip by amid the “humanitarian mission.”

The number of family members arrested by the US Border Patrol rose around 9% month to month, from 23,115 in October to 25,172 last month. However, the November 2018 figure was up more than 200% from the 7,016 family member apprehensions in November 2017.

Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors rose 6%, from 4,982 in October to 5,283 in November.

Apprehensions are used by the government as a measure of illegal crossings.

Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, called the November numbers “predictable” and blamed a “broken immigration system.” She also cited “flawed judicial rulings” and took direct aim at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, saying, “Bad decisions from the 9th Circuit are directly responsible for the more than 25,000 family units who violated our national sovereignty and are effectively immune to consequences for their illegal actions.”

Thousands of Central American migrants have been waiting at the Mexican border city of Tijuana as part of the so-called caravan for their turn to enter the US and seek asylum. The issue gained national attention over Thanksgiving weekend when some migrants attempted to rush the port of entry into California.

Border Patrol agents used tear gas to disperse the crowd, which included women and children. A photo of a Honduran woman and her 5-year-old twin girls running away from tear gas sparked widespread outrage.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that, per protocol, the decision to fire the tear gas was made by agents on the scene using their professional judgment, and also per protocol the incident will be reviewed.

In Arizona, officials have been encountering large groups of illegal border crossers who are not associated with the caravan. For example, in Yuma they are apprehending “groups of hundreds” who are dropped off and told to surrender to the Border Patrol, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Wednesday.

The Yuma, Arizona, sector has seen a spike in family apprehensions since last year, more than doubling from 1,116 in November 2017 to 3,170 last month.

The majority of migrant families last month — 11,489 — crossed illegally in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas, which for years has had the highest numbers of apprehensions.