The U.S. Border Patrol’s apprehensions of migrants at the border with Mexico hit their highest level in more than a decade in May, as officials warned they don’t have the money and resources to care for the surge of parents and children entering the country.
Agents made 132,887 apprehensions in May, the first time that apprehensions have topped 100,000 since April 2007. It set a record with 84,542 adults and children apprehended. Another 11,507 were children traveling alone, and 36,838 were single adults.
Those numbers underpin the problems across the border. Photos of families waiting in jam-packed cells and in outdoor enclosures have sparked outrage. Six children have died in the last year after being detained by border agents.
Government inspectors last week announced they found one 125-person facility in El Paso, Texas, to have had 700 people one day and 900 another day. They were packed in so tightly that some resorted to standing on toilets.
When the Border Patrol last made 100,000 or more apprehensions monthly, it was primarily detaining adults from Mexico trying to sneak past agents and enter the U.S. undetected.
Now, most border crossers are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, as those countries have been wracked by gangs, violence, and poverty. Many are expected to eventually request asylum. After crossing the border, they typically stop and wait for agents to pick them up.
Border Patrol facilities are not designed to hold families with children as young as newborns. Authorities this week awarded a $544,000 contract to deliver diapers, baby bottles, shower shoes, and baby wipes to Donna, Texas, where the Border Patrol has opened a tent facility for 500 migrants.
Children are routinely detained for longer than the 72 hours allowed by federal law and U.S. Customs and Border Protection guidelines. The agency cites long-term detention facilities for parents and children that are at or above capacity.
“We are bursting at the seams,” said Randy Howe, CBP’s executive director of operations. “This can’t continue.”
President Donald Trump has asked for $4.5 billion to address the influx of migrants, but Congress has yet to approve it.
He’s also threatened to impose a 5% tariff on Mexican products if authorities there don’t curb migration from Central America. Mexican officials went to Washington this week to lobby the Trump administration not to comply with its threat.
Mexico has offered more options to Central Americans to stay in the country legally and allowed the U.S. to return thousands of migrants who have asylum cases pending under a Trump administration initiative currently being challenged in court.
Around 200 Mexican police and immigration agents blocked the advance of about 1,000 Central American migrants on a southern highway Wednesday.
But the Border Patrol says agents in El Paso, Texas, encountered more than 1,000 people crossed into the U.S. in a single group just last week. Agents made 38,630 apprehensions in and around El Paso in May.
Officials say they’re not counting on the hotter summer weather leading to a seasonal downturn in migration as it usually does. Already, agents have apprehended large groups of migrants in the first days of June.
“We’re not seeing any signs of anything dropping off,” said Brian Hastings, the Border Patrol’s chief of law enforcement operations.