WASHINGTON – There was a slight increase in the number of families captured after crossing the southern border in November, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security.
The numbers show even more families were apprehended while illegally crossing the border during a time when President Donald Trump continuously vowed in front of large numbers of supporters to stop them, even sending thousands of soldiers to the southern border. Trump held dozens of rallies ahead of November’s midterm elections, calling attention whenever he could to the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. who aimed to claim asylum.
During November, 25,172 families were apprehended, an 8 percent increase from the 23,115 families that were caught illegally crossing in October. There were also slight increases in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border, from 4,982 in October to 5,283 in November, and the overall number of individuals captured, from 51,001 to 51,856.
Ahead of the November election, Trump continued to focus on immigration, a focal point in his 2016 campaign, and vowed to stop those attempting to cross illegally because once migrants are captured, they’re released and ordered to appear before an immigration judge, a process known as “catch and release.” Many ignore the court proceedings and live illegally in the U.S.
Trump renewed his commitment to border security on Twitter on Thursday night, calling on Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to join Republicans’ efforts to stop illegal immigration.
“Arizona, together with our Military and Border Patrol, is bracing for a massive surge at a NON-WALLED area. WE WILL NOT LET THEM THROUGH. Big danger. Nancy and Chuck must approve Boarder Security and the Wall!” Trump said.
Trump’s criticism of the caravan led to it becoming a primary issue in the election. He sent thousands of troops to the southern border just days before the election, something that Democrats criticized as a partisan stunt.
Homeland Security blamed the influx in November on courts that ruled against the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including a recent ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that halted the president’s plan to reshape the nation’s asylum policies and dramatically cut the number of applications.
“Unfortunately, individual district court judges in separate immigration rulings have given another free pass to illegal aliens to violate our laws,” said Katie Waldman, a DHS spokeswoman. “This has consequences. Bad decisions from the Ninth Circuit are directly responsible for the more than 25,000 family units who violated our national sovereignty and are effectively immune to consequences for their illegal actions.”
The Trump administration’s proposal to alter asylum policies included that migrants who enter the country illegally would not be able to request asylum.
None of the migrants that U.S. customs officers processed in November are part of the controversial caravan that reached the border in Tijuana last month. CBP officials across the border in San Diego said it will take at least another month before they start processing them because of a lengthy backlog in the processing of asylum claims.
Along many parts of the border, migrants seeking asylum at the ports face long waits as a part of “metering” policy where customs officers bring in a limited number of asylum seekers each day. In some instances, migrants are not even allowed to approach the ports of entry, according to a lawsuit making its way through federal court.
The overall number of migrants that customs officers processed at the ports of entry reached 10,600 in November, up from 9,771 in October. But, the processing of unaccompanied minors decreased from 455 last month to 404 in November.
A report from Homeland Security’s own internal watchdog office said that these policies are forcing asylum seekers to attempt to enter the country illegally, rather than wait their turn at ports of entry.
Waldman said the increase in apprehensions last month were a “predictable result of a broken immigration system – including flawed judicial rulings – that usurps the will of the American people who have repeatedly demanded secure borders.”
“Our country cannot afford unchecked, undemocratic mass migration policies written by activist judges. We will continue to push Congress to step up and confront these legal failures,” Waldman added. “If Congress once again kicks the can down the road and refuses to close the well-known and devastating loopholes and fund the President’s wall it will be a continuation of a decade’s long dereliction of duty.”
Contributing: Rafael Carranza, Arizona Republic