U.S. Customs and Border Patrol wants people to know there is a crisis at the border.
They say they’re seeing a dramatic increase in illegal crossers in New Mexico and don’t have enough agents to deal with it. Now, they’re asking Congress for help.
Border Patrol officials say the number of undocumented families coming across the border is overwhelming.
“In March, we will see over 55,000 family units alone. In March of 2017, when we were at historic lows, we saw 16,794 crossings total, including all demographics: adults families and children,” said Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
They say the El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico, is being hit the hardest.
KRQE News 13 is told they are now on pace for more than 100,000 apprehensions and encounters with migrants—90,000 of them crossing the border illegally between ports of entry—many of which, are in New Mexico.
Antelope Wells is one of those spots with hundreds of people coming in at a time. March will be their busiest month in more than a decade.
“The last time we had crossings near this level, they were almost all single adults from Mexico, who could be swiftly repatriated. It’s a big difference,” said McAleenan.
However, with more families coming in now, they’re seeing a rise in medical needs. There have been a number of deaths of migrants after they’ve crossed the border, including two children: an 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl.
“Our expanded medical efforts are saving lives, but they come at a high cost to our enforcement mission,” said McAleenan.
Saturday, Border Patrol announced the temporary closure of interior border checkpoints in order to reassign agents to process the growing number of immigrants.
McAleenan is calling on Congress to take immediate action.
“Changes in the law and closing the vulnerabilities in our legal framework is the only way that this flow is going to be reduced and we’re going to be able to restore integrity to our immigration system,” said McAleenan.
Also for the first time in more than a decade, Border Patrol is releasing migrants when ICE is unable to provide bed space—something they’re calling an unfortunate but necessary step.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says they’re using additional funding from the 2019 fiscal year budget, re-addressing their medical and transportation contracts, and establishing new processing facilities in El Paso. They’re also working to hire more agents.