A rising number of asylum-seekers from Central America are crossing the Texas border with Mexico, overflowing refugee centers and filling up federal processing facilities.
The number of family units – usually mothers or fathers with small children – apprehended in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley sector jumped from 49,896 in fiscal year 2017 to 63,278 in fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30. That’s a 27 percent increase, according to recently released agency statistics.
Those numbers are in line with an overall rise in family unit apprehensions across the Southwest border, which increased from 41,435 in fiscal year 2017 to 50,036 this past fiscal year, a 21 percent rise. The Rio Grande Valley Sector, which covers 320 border miles and runs from Rio Grande City to Brownsville and up the coast to Corpus Christi, was far and away the biggest contributor to that total.
The wave of migrants – coming primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – arrive in large groups, sometimes 70 or 100 at a time, and are jamming federal facilities where they’re held while their asylum requests are processed.
“These numbers are not sustainable,” sector chief Manuel Padilla tweeted in October.
The surge of immigrant families comes at a time when the border and immigration are taking central roles in the political drama leading up to next week’s midterm election.
President Donald Trump has recently and repeatedly railed against a caravan made up of an estimated 4,000 Central American migrants making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border in search of asylum from poverty and violence in their countries. He’s alleged that criminal elements and “unknown Middle Easterners” may be in that group.
On Wednesday, Trump said he is prepared to deploy as many as 15,000 military troops to the U.S. southern border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.
Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville immigration attorney who represents migrants, said the debate and increased scrutiny on the border are making it harder for residents on each side of the border to cross over, disrupting communities that have lived in close harmony for generations.