Posted on September 11, 2018

Border Agents in South Texas Saw Increase in Migrant Families Make Illegal Crossings in August

Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, September 10, 2018Nick Miroff, Washington Post, September 10, 2018

The number of Central American families arrested for entering the United States illegally surged again in August, according to a Trump administration official and Border Patrol agents in South Texas, an increase that comes as the president threatens a government shutdown to extract funding from Congress for a border wall.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expected to publish the most recent border arrest totals this week, and the numbers will be used to gauge the effect of President Donald Trump’s order halting the separation of migrant parents from their children.

Agents working in the Rio Grande Valley, the nation’s busiest corridor for illegal crossings, say they’ve seen more families turn themselves in and ask for asylum in recent weeks, a potential indication that the policy reversal has encouraged more Central Americans to head north.

“They keep coming and coming,” said one agent. “There were some really large groups. Any time you have to use buses to come and pick them up, that’s not a good sign.”


Trump has treated the monthly arrest totals as a barometer for his administration’s performance on immigration enforcement, and this year’s increases have put him in a foul mood, angry that he cannot campaign on a record of tougher border security.


“We are getting hit hard,” said another agent in South Texas who observed a busy August at the border.

Trump boasted last year when arrests dropped to their lowest mark since 1971, but he ceased touting his border success when they returned to levels consistent with President Obama’s second term, or surpassed those totals some months.

The president last week resumed threats to shut down the federal government if lawmakers do not approve funds for his border wall plan, telling reporters, “If it’s about border security, I’m willing to do anything.”

The border arrest figures due this week will be closely watched for the number of migrants arrested who were part of a “family unit” consisting of at least one parent and child. {snip}

Since then Border Patrol agents and Homeland Security officials have warned that the policy’s reversal would be interpreted by smuggling guides and would-be migrants as an enticement to make an illegal journey. Many of the families — the majority from the hyperviolent Northern Triangle region of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – say they are fleeing death threats and the takeover of their communities by gangs.

Because migrants typically need two to four weeks to travel from Central America to the U.S. border, many of those arriving in August probably made their decisions after the family separation crackdown was suspended.


The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services gave official notice last week that they are seeking to overhaul court-imposed limitations on their ability to keep children in immigration jails. That would allow the government to hold families while their asylum claims are adjudicated, a change the administration says is necessary to make sure those asylum seekers can’t make frivolous claims to avoid deportation.

“Because of restrictive judicial orders and catch and release loopholes that leave us with no recourse for removal we are seeing a record number of family units apprehended at the Southwest border,” Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for DHS, said in a statement.