The number of migrants taken into custody along the Mexican border soared to the highest totals of the Trump presidency in October, according to figures released late Friday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The jump in illegal crossings continued to be driven by a record numbers of parents arriving with children, a trend that has accelerated dramatically since the Trump administration halted its “zero tolerance” family-separation policy in June.
Border Patrol agents last month arrested 23,121 migrant family members, a 39 percent jump from September and the highest one-month total ever recorded. In total, CBP arrested or deemed inadmissible 60,745 people along the Mexico border in October, far more than any other month since Trump took office.
Department of Homeland Security officials did not comment Friday on the October figures. Trump in the past has viewed the numbers as a gauge for the performance of his border security officials and especially Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who is not expected to last much longer in her role.
With Trump arriving in France on Friday, it was not clear whether the president had seen the October border figures showing yet another surge in illegal crossings.
DHS officials blame the surge on what they say is a flood of frivolous asylum claims by Central Americans attempting to avoid deportation by gaming the U.S. immigration system. Trump on Friday issued a presidential proclamation that imposes new restrictions on asylum protections for migrants who cross the border illegally, invoking the same executive authority cited under his travel ban last year.
A coalition of civil rights groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday in San Francisco seeking an injunction to block the measures, calling them a violation of federal procedure and a violation of immigration laws.
October’s surge in border arrests was driven, once more, by large numbers of Guatemalan and Honduran migrants, many of whom are fleeing rampant violence and poverty.
An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Central Americans are traveling toward the U.S. border in loose caravans of unprecedented size, and the October arrest totals do not include members of those groups.
They will arrive at a border where more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers have been ordered to deploy in an attempt to deter more illegal crossings. But record proportions of those crossing illegally today are women with children who simply turn themselves in to U.S. border agents and state a fear of return.
U.S. courts limit the government’s ability to hold children in immigration jails, and with family-appropriate detention capacity already maxed out, the government has been processing and releasing large numbers of migrants in Arizona and California.
The last month on record that CBP registered more than 60,000 arrests and “inadmissible” border crossers was November 2016, the month Trump was elected.
Border apprehensions fell during the first year of Trump’s presidency to their lowest level since 1971, and when the numbers rebounded this spring the president directed much of his ire at Nielsen. His administration attempted to halt the increases by separating parents from their children, but Trump abandoned the policy after six weeks amid widespread outrage.