January 12, 2016
Illegal immigration from Central America is setting a record pace, with nearly 40,000 families and children traveling alone being caught on the southwest border in just the first three months of the fiscal year, according to new Border Patrol numbers.
In December alone nearly 9,000 family members were caught — a staggering 38 percent increase compared to November, and by far the highest total ever for the last month of the year. Border Patrol agents also nabbed another 6,800 children traveling alone, which was a 21 percent increase over November.
Together they mark the largest single month of families and unaccompanied minors since the height of the surge in late spring 2014 — when the weather was more conducive to crossing. By contrast, the winter is usually a slower month for illegal traffic, making the new numbers all the more troubling to an administration struggling to devise a response.
Faced with few good options, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month announced a series of raids intended to capture and deport some of the women and children caught in 2014 who have been ordered deported but are refusing to leave. The administration is hoping that if folks in Central America see some deportations, they’ll think twice about making the trip themselves.
The immigrants are coming chiefly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Human rights advocates say those nations are suffering from an epidemic of violence that’s chasing women and children from their homes — though Border Patrol interviews say the illegal immigrants say they’re being pulled to the U.S. by the belief that the Obama administration will give them permission to stay in the U.S.
While the raids have a small footprint — they have led to the arrest of about one-tenth of a percent of the more than 100,000 illegal immigrants who have been part of the surge — they have drawn an outsized reaction from Democrats, who have demanded Mr. Obama halt them and try to find ways to let the illegal immigrants stay.
On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton added her voice to those calls.
“Our immigration enforcement efforts should be humane and conducted in accordance with due process, and that is why I believe we must stop the raids happening in immigrant communities,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that the raids “have sown fear” among immigrants.
But the White House said it stands by Mr. Johnson’s decision.
“At this point, our policy will remain the same,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday.