Before the surge of unaccompanied minors in 2014, when U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended 68,631 of them arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the largest number previously recorded came a year earlier at 38,833 kids. This was an increase of nearly 80%, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics, and the beginning of a trend showing children and families eventually making up the majority of border apprehensions.
Although fewer unaccompanied minors arrived at the border in 2015, when 40,035 were apprehended, a decrease of more than 40%, there has been a focus on unaccompanied minors making the oft-perilous journey from Central America. But the major shift in apprehensions has actually been that of families, at least since 2014.
Specifically, family apprehensions have steadily risen since 2014, from 14% of the total apprehensions being composed of families to 19%, 24% and 27% in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. 2015 was the one exception with 11% of apprehensions being that of families.
With four months to go in fiscal year 2019, family apprehensions through May make up 332,981 of the total 593,507, or 56% of all apprehensions at the border. That figure is mostly composed of people coming from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
This coupled with the nearly 10% of apprehensions being that of unaccompanied minors, families and children as opposed to single adult males now represent the overwhelming majority of those apprehended at the border for the first time since statistics on those groups began, according to the agency’s website.
While many of the families and children arriving are voluntarily surrendering to Border Patrol agents, the apprehension numbers apply to anyone found in the interior of the country without having legal authority to be in the country.
It should be noted that since the end of the zero tolerance policy on June 20, 2018, the number of families arriving and being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has slowly increased to the current numbers.
Jeff Sessions, who at the time served as the U.S. Attorney General, began the policy via a memo in early April 2018. It was meant to prosecute anyone who had arrived at the U.S. border without documentation, resulting in the separation of children from their parents. Ultimately, thousands of kids were separated as a result of the policy before President Trump ordered the end of the policy.
President Trump signed an executive order on June 20, 2018, to end the policy his administration initiated a few months before.
Despite the policy’s intent to deter future immigrants from arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the number of families arriving at the border still increased every month since, with the exception being in January.
Beginning in July 2018, a month after zero tolerance came to a halt, Border Patrol agents have apprehended 371,800 families, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics
Compared to the number of family apprehensions in fiscal year 2018, Border Patrol agents have already apprehended over 200% more families through May 2019, the agency’s website shows.