The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that illegal border crossings spiked 160 percent in May compared to the previous year, including “staggering rates” of families making the journey north.
The May 2018 southwest border migration numbers show that for a third consecutive month more than 50,000 undocumented migrants were apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton. The number of apprehended undocumented migrants increased slightly in April before the sharp increase in May.
“These numbers show that while the Trump administration is restoring the rule of law, it will take a sustained effort and continuous commitment of resources over many months to disrupt cartels, smugglers, and nefarious actors,” Houlton said. “We are taking action and will be referring and then prosecuting 100 percent of illegal border crossers, we are building the first new border wall in a decade, and we have deployed the National Guard to the border.”
Houlton called on Congress to “end legal loopholes” such as the catch-and-release practice under which apprehended migrants are freed pending their immigration hearing; he argued that policies such as this are being exploited by smugglers, human traffickers and other criminals.
“As the May numbers indicate, we are seeing family units try to illegally cross our borders at staggering rates,” Houlton said. “In May 2018, the number of illegal family units trying to cross the border increased by 435 percent in comparison to May 2017 – and the number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended illegally crossing the border increased by 329 percent in May 2018 in comparison to May 2017.”
In May, 40,344 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry on the southern border compared with 38,278 in April and 37,385 in March.
A full report on the CBP’s May numbers can be found here.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that it was necessary to separate children from parents at the border because “what’s happening is we are having more people coming bringing children with them entering between the ports of entry, between the ports of entry illegally, and they’re not, you cannot give them immunity.”
“That’s an offense,” he said. “We believe every person that enters the country illegally like that should be prosecuted. And you can’t be giving immunity to people who bring children with them recklessly and improperly and illegally. They should never do that.”
Pressed on potential traumatic effects to the children, Sessions said kids “are kept close by” for the first 72 hours, “and if the person pleads guilty, they would be deported promptly, and they can take their children with them.”
“Every time somebody gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children,” he argued. “We don’t want to do this at all. If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan also defended the policy that has sparked protests, telling the Center for Immigration Studies in D.C. on Tuesday that “it’s sad to see children cry when you take a parent out of a home, but because it’s sad doesn’t mean that we ignore the law.”
“One thing you got to remember, for that parent who was arrested and his child crying and feeling bad about it, I get it, but what responsibility does he have in this? He chose to enter the country illegally in violation of federal law. He chose to do that intentionally,” the ICE chief said of a video in which a father is being arrested as his children cry. “He put himself in the position.”