More migrant families are showing up on the border

migrant families
More than 20 migrant families from Central America were dropped off at a Phoenix church by in a Department of Homeland Security bus the night of Tuesday, October 9. Overall, migrant families and minors crossing the border unaccompanied are accounting for an increasing share of the total arrests on the border. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

More adults are choosing to migrate with their children to the U.S., data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol shows. Fiscal year 2018 hit a record in number of family members arrested by Border Patrol at 107,212, the highest figure since at least 2012.

While the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is the busiest sector for Border Patrol arrests of migrants who are caught illegally crossing into this country, one Arizona community has the greatest share of family apprehensions when compared to its total arrests.

In the Yuma area, families accounted for 56 percent of all apprehensions in fiscal year 2018. That is more than double the average (27 percent) of all of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors.

The Yuma sector covers 126 miles from the Imperial Sand Dunes in California to the eastern edge of Yuma County.

In 2014, families accounted for 11 percent of all arrests in Yuma. That figure increased to 24 percent in 2015, kept growing in 2016 to 44 percent and reached 47 percent in 2017 — a year that saw a 30 percent decrease overall in total southern border apprehensions.

Overall, migrant families and minors crossing the border unaccompanied are also accounting for an increasing share of the total arrests on the border. In fiscal year 2012, family members and unaccompanied children made up 10 percent of the total arrests in the southern border. In fiscal year 2018, they made up 40 percent of total apprehensions.

With thousands of migrants from Central America, among them fathers, mothers and children, heading north to the U.S-Mexico border, it’s apparent the trend of family migration will continue to hold.

Communities in Arizona saw first-hand the effects of this surge last month, as a recent practice (which some think might be politically motivated) by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement to release hundreds of migrant families to charity groups. A network of churches took in the families in the Phoenix area and Tucson, but overwhelmed the Yuma community, The Arizona Republic reported

The immigration detention system is mostly equipped for adults and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracts shelters to hold unaccompanied minors in long-term childcare facilities. Law enforcement and government agencies have said space and policy constraints are a challenge when dealing with migrant families, and decisions from lawmakers will come down to a country already appalled by the family separation crisis.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that the government is building “massive tents” to hold migrant families.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.


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