Claims of fear to return home spike at US-Mexico border

Central American migrants planning to surrender to U.S. border patrol agents climb over the U.S. border wall from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, late Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Thousands of migrants are living in crowded tent cities in the Mexican city of Tijuana after undertaking a grueling, weeks-long journey to the U.S. border. (Rebecca Blackwell | The Associated Press)

SAN DIEGO — U.S. immigration authorities say the number of people expressing fear of returning home when they are stopped at the Mexican border spiked in the last year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released the figures Monday reflecting the first step in the asylum process. The agency fielded nearly 93,000 claims of so-called “credible fear” in the 2018 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, up 67 percent from the previous year. The claims accounted for 18 percent of all people arrested or stopped at the border, up from 13 percent.

It was the first time it released the figures.

Claims at official border crossings — the prescribed way to claim asylum — more than doubled. Others asylum seekers cross illegally.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan says the claims are straining resources.

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