Still at historic low, RGV immigrant apprehensions surpass 2018 total

Over 50 migrants wait near Granjeno to be processed on the levee underneath the Anzalduas International Bridge on Wednesday, April 10. The line of people interestingly juxtaposes the symmetry of the architecture above their heads and the Rio Grande behind them that flows east. The migrants traveled north from the Rio Bravo. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

McALLEN — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Monday that total apprehensions for the Rio Grande Valley sector in fiscal year 2019 have surpassed last year, according to a news release.

With about five months left in fiscal year 2019, which ends in September, U.S. Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 164,000 undocumented persons in the RGV sector, which surpasses the 162,262 in 2018, according to the agency’s website.

“The sector continues to work with its federal, state, local and non-governmental partners in addressing the influx of Central and South American migrants crossing into South Texas,” the CBP release stated.

The increase in apprehensions is attributed to a spike in families and unaccompanied children from Central American countries, specifically from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Since about the beginning of the year and through March, Border Patrol and CBP officials noted that the increase of families and unaccompanied children surrendering to them at the border was inundating their immigration system, and leaving them overcapacity at processing and detention stations.

In early March, CBP confirmed it had begun to release families with a notice to appear as their facilities were overcapacity. With lack of space to house them, CBP said it had no choice but to release them despite having Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities remaining mostly unused.

As of early April, the ICE facility at Karnes, which holds more than 800 people, had roughly 60 people being housed; the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which has a maximum occupancy of more than 1,400, housed about 1,000 people; and the ICE-run facility in Berks County Pennsylvania, which is currently housing about 20 persons, has a maximum capacity of more than 2,400 people, according to ICE officials.

CBP and Border Patrol officials have said that they’ve been detaining roughly more than 1,000 people per day in the RGV sector.

Earlier this month, CBP reported that Border Patrol agents had apprehended 92,607 people along the southwest border in March, more than 60% of those being composed of families and unaccompanied children who are arriving at the border and surrendering to agents.

CBP reported of the more than 92,000 total apprehensions on the southwest border, 53,077 were of families and another 8,975 made up of unaccompanied minor children — the majority of whom are coming from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Despite the increase in families and unaccompanied children surrendering to agents at the border, total apprehensions remain at historic lows, with 396,579 apprehensions reported in fiscal year 2018, according to the agency’s website.

The 396,579 number of apprehensions is still nowhere near the apprehensions reported 20 years ago, when Border Patrol officials recorded 1,579,010 apprehensions in fiscal year 1999. The next closest year in terms of apprehensions came more than 10 years ago, in fiscal year 2007 when Border Patrol agents apprehended a total of 876,704 immigrants, the agency’s website stated.