By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border jumped 78 percent in November from a year earlier to the highest level in Donald Trump’s presidency, with families and children accounting for a majority for a third straight month.
The numbers are the latest sign that people who cross the border illegally are increasingly families and children traveling alone, a trend that began several years ago but has accelerated since summer.
The Border Patrol made 25,172 arrests of people who came as families in November, nearly four times the same period last year, parent agency Customs and Border Protection said. There were 5,283 arrests of unaccompanied children, up 33 percent from a year earlier.
Overall, the Border Patrol made 51,856 arrests on the Mexican border last month, up from 51,001, or 1 percent, in October and up from 29,085 in the same period of 2017. It was the fourth straight month-to-month increase.
Many families and children, predominantly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, turn themselves in to agents and seek asylum or some other form of protection, a dramatic change from several years ago when people who crossed illegally were largely Mexican men who tried to elude capture. Central American asylum seekers have low approval rates. But many stay in the U.S. while their cases wind through backlogged immigration courts, which can take several years.
Katie Waldman, a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said the November arrests “are the predictable result of a broken immigration system — including flawed judicial rulings — that usurps the will of the American people who have repeatedly demanded secure borders.” She singled out a Nov. 19 ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco to halt a new policy to deny asylum to people who enter the country illegally. The ruling infuriated Trump, who made illegal immigration a top priority during his 2016 campaign and in the White House.
“Our country cannot afford unchecked, undemocratic mass migration policies written by activist judges,” Waldman said. “We will continue to push Congress to step up and address these legal failures.”
The Border Patrol operates between ports of entry. When adding 10,600 who were stopped at official crossings in November, there were 62,456 detained for entering the country without authorization. That’s the highest level since June 2014, during the middle of President Barack Obama’s second term and at the peak of an earlier influx of Central Americans families and children.
Trump, who has made border wall construction a top funding priority, dispatched 5,600 active-duty troops to the Mexican border in November as a large caravan of Central American migrants moved through Mexico to the northern border city of Tijuana, across from San Diego.