This is the fourth time in five months that the number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has broken records, according to CBP data. The latest data is the highest monthly figure for February in the last 12 years.
"Total enforcement actions for February in the fiscal year 2019 were 76,103, those include those deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry and those apprehended in between the ports of entry," Meehan said. "This represented a 31 percent increase over January."
“The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters, cited by the New York Times, adding that the numbers demonstrated an alarming trend that the agency expects to escalate in March, April and May.
More than 90 percent of the new arrivals were from Guatemala, officials said, representing a significant change in the dynamics of migration. Central American migrants traveling to the US border used to take weeks to journey through Mexico to the United States, however many Guatemalan families are now boarding buses and reaching the southwest border in as little as four to seven days “on a very consistent basis,” according to McAleenan.
He also declared changes to the agency’s procedures for guaranteeing medical care for migrants in the wake of the deaths of two migrant children who had been in the agency’s custody in December. The measures, which include comprehensive health screenings for all migrant children and a new processing centre in El Paso that would help provide better shelter and medical care for migrant families, were developed with advice from outside medical experts and paediatricians.
“These solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable,” McAleenan said. “This is clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis.”
The agency's Chief of Operations Brian Hastings said border agents were also seeing a growing trend of migrant groups of more than 100 arriving at the southwestern border, a pattern which CBP cannot withstand with its current facilities and manpower. Hastings pointed out that so far CBP has already encountered 70 of these large groups this fiscal year, which began in October, compared to 13 in the fiscal year 2018 and two in the fiscal year 2017.
In February US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a means of diverting funds from the Pentagon's military construction fund to deal with the immigration crisis, including the construction of a border wall. Trump sought to secure some $5.7 billion funding for the border barrier from Congress, but Democratic resistance to the wall, spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, resulted in the US president shutting down portions of the US government for 35 days.