Border braces as number of illegals swells

Crystal A. Diaz, a U.S. Border Patrol agent with the Tucson Sector in Arizona, rides her ATV while on patrol. (AP Photo/U.S. Border Patrol) more >

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2015

The number of illegal immigrant mothers and children jumping the Southwest border swelled in July, according to new Border Patrol statistics that suggest last year’s surge could be repeating.

Both unaccompanied minors — the children traveling without parents, whose spike in numbers last year drew attention to the border crisis — and mothers traveling with children, were caught at increasing levels in July, the Border Patrol statistics showed.

That’s a problem because it defies the Border Patrol’s expectations. Officials had predicted a drop in both numbers in July, as the summer heat grows, but instead they spiked.

“Based on historical trends, Border Patrol would expect to be seeing a decrease in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families by this time of year. That is not the case this year, especially in the Rio Grande Valley,” Deputy Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello told a federal court earlier this month, anticipating the final numbers that were released late last week.

According to those figures, the number of parents and children caught trying to enter illegally as a family reached 4,506 — a rate of 145 a day, and up 11 percent compared to June. Unaccompanied children, who drew most of the attention last year, saw a smaller increase from June to July, rising to 4,177, or a rate of about 135 a day.

Both numbers are down significantly from the peak of the surge last year, when more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors, and more than 10,000 parents and children traveling together, were apprehended in the high months.

The trend, however, is worrisome to officials — particularly in the family flow, which has picked up every month this year. Only 1,622 were apprehended in January, rising to 3,086 in April, to 4,506 in July.

Administration officials fear that some illegal immigrants have figured out how to game the immigration system, realizing that if they bring their children on the journey, they might get better treatment here in the U.S., including a quick release from detention and the chance to escape into the shadows with the 11 million illegal immigrants already here.

In a statement released Monday, Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, said it still believes the situation is manageable — though the agency acknowledged the factors that led to last year’s massive surge are growing.

“Conditions in Central America continue to worsen, especially the poverty and violence in these countries that are the primary push factors. We are aware that smugglers, or “coyotes,” often use misinformation about current immigration policies and practices to lure illegal migrants to employ their services,” the agency said.

CBP just relaunched its public relations campaign aimed at urging would-be crossers in Central America, and their families already here. The campaign tells them of the dangers of the journey and insists there is no legal status waiting here for them.

This year’s campaign began months later than it did in 2013 and 2014.