The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended more than 66,000 migrants at the Southern border in February, the highest total for a single month in almost a decade.
By Joel Rose & John Burnett
The majority of those arrested were migrant families or children traveling alone or without a parent, according to figures released Tuesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Many of the migrants say they’re fleeing criminal gangs and poverty in Central America to seek asylum in the United States.
“This is clearly both a border security and humanitarian crisis,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan at a press briefing.
Between October and last week, Border Patrol agents have picked up more than 260,000 people — a 90 percent jump over the same period a year ago.
“The entire system right now is at full capacity. Actually, it’s overwhelmed,” said Manuel Padilla, a veteran Border Patrol agent who’s now director of Joint Task Force-West in San Antonio, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Even with the recent climb, illegal border crossings are still well below historical highs. But the makeup of the migrant population has changed dramatically from 20 years ago, when it was mostly single men from Mexico. Border Patrol officials say their infrastructure wasn’t designed for the flood of migrant families and children arriving now.
“Everything is maxed out and it’s causing a lot of issues, because the agents are being assigned to areas that are not border security related,” Padilla said, like providing food and medical care for the families and children in their custody.