U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 92,000 immigrants trying to cross the border illegally in March, a 12-year high announced Tuesday as President Donald Trump moved to replace top leadership at the Department of Homeland Security and vowed tougher immigration policies.
In March, 92,607 immigrants were apprehended at the border – the highest monthly total since April 2007, when 104,465 immigrants were stopped trying to enter the country illegally.
Of those apprehended in March, 30,555 were single adults, 8,975 were unaccompanied children and 53,077 were family units, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.
The number of family units apprehended is an all-time high.
“The Border Patrol is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis,” said Brian Hastings, the Border Patrol’s chief of law enforcement operations. “We’ve arrived at the breaking point.”
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The 92,607 apprehensions in March are a 35 percent increase over February, according to CBP.
In the past six months, 361,087 individualshave been apprehended along the southwest border – more than double the number during the same period last year. Family apprehensions have jumped by 375 percent over the same time last year.
“As more and more adults with children are released into the U.S. pending immigration proceedings, word of mouth and social media have spread news,” Hastings said. “And more immigrants are emboldened to make the dangerous journey.”
Despite the jump, the overall number of illegal border crossings remains lower than in the 1990s and 2000s, when Border Patrol agents routinely apprehended more than 100,000 people a month and topped 200,000 apprehensions during two separate months in 2000.
The difference is that the majority of illegal border crossings back then were Mexican males trying to avoid Border Patrol agents, and now the majority are Central American families seeking out Border Patrol agents to request asylum.
Promising to take a “tougher direction” on immigration, Trump purged top leaders at the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned Sunday after facing pressure from Trump and some of his aides to do more to stop border crossings. Last week, Trump withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Friday, Trump traveled to Calexico, California, near the Mexican border, where he toured a new section of border wall and issued a blunt message to migrants heading to the USA.
“Our country is full,” Trump said. “Can’t take you anymore. I’m sorry. Turn around. That’s the way it is.”
Trump threatened two weeks ago to seal off the border to stop immigrants and drugs from flowing into the USA. He retreated from that threat and said Mexico had taken a more aggressive stance on apprehending Central American migrants in response to his words.
But Trump threatened to impose a 25% tariff on all cars made in Mexico and shipped into the USA if the Mexican government stopped apprehending immigrants who cross the border illegally. If that doesn’t work, he said, he would close the border.