U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics show nearly 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in October, almost double the number from October 2014.
Immigration experts say the numbers, released Tuesday, show that the flow of immigrants from Central America has remained high at a time of year when it usually drops.
Some 6,000 family members traveling together also were apprehended last month — nearly triple from October 2014.
The most families and children apprehended at the border were from El Salvador.
Immigrants are also starting to venture farther west along the Texas border.
Unaccompanied children caught in the Del Rio sector jumped from 120 to 237, while 187 children were apprehended in the remote Big Bend area, up from just 13 a year ago.
The Washington Times reports that the surge shows a breakdown in enforcement along the US-Mexico border, with every one of the nine Southwest border sectors showing spikes in what the Border Patrol dubs OTMs, or “other than Mexicans.”
“The greatest existential threat to this nation right now is this administration’s open-border policy. This is no longer about immigration, it’s about the president and DHS keeping open the corridors on the southern border that are accessible to anyone in the world,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who has raised concerns over national security risks at the border.
“We can defend our country against another country’s navy, a missile threat and even repel a conventional military invasion. But the president’s policy of allowing anyone into the nation as students or refugees presents a serious threat,” he said.
Some 25,000 illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have been caught in the first seven weeks of the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 — an increase of 58 percent. The number of Chinese, Brazilians, Indians and, strikingly, Cubans, has each surged by more than 100 percent, and the number from Pakistan, while small overall, has spiked from 6 at this point last year to 31 now — an increase of more than 400 percent.
The Border Patrol statistics indicated no Syrians had been caught crossing the border.
The immigration surge into the US comes at a time when Mexico is tightening its border to Americans going south. The Christian Science Monitor reported in August on the change:
Travelers are separated into two lines: one for Mexicans, who are allowed to pass through unchecked, and another for foreigners, who must show their passports and submit entry forms to agents waiting at inspection booths. Those intending to stay longer than a week are also now required to pay a fee of about $20.
The process is similar to what you’d expect at any international airport, but this new distinction – announced by the opening of a $6.9 million facility – “represents a new way of doing business at the border for Mexico, as the federal government seeks control of who comes into the country,” reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Now, border security will be able to cross-check visitors' information with international criminal databases.
“This is about putting our house in order,” Rodulfo Figueroa, Mexico's top immigration official in Baja California, told the AP.