U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained 25,172 members of “family units” in November, the highest number ever recorded, as well as 5,283 “unaccompanied minors.” Combined, those two groups accounted for nearly 60 percent of all border arrests in November.
Overall, CBP arrested or denied entry to 62,456 border-crossers in November, up from 60,772 in October.
The family groups — primarily from Guatemala — typically cross the border and turn themselves in to U.S. authorities while stating a fear of returning home, which prevents their immediate deportation.
Court limits on the government’s ability to hold children in immigration jails and an acute shortage of detention space mean that most asylum seekers who arrive with children are processed and quickly released from custody, usually with a GPS tracking device and a court date with an immigration judge far into the future.
Trump lashed out at aides, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, earlier this year when border arrests jumped, but in recent months his reactions to the monthly enforcement data has been less hot-tempered.
In a statement, DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman blamed the increases on judges in the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who have repeatedly blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to overhaul immigration policies by executive action.
“The November 2018 border numbers are the predictable result of a broken immigration system — including flawed judicial rulings — that usurps the will of the American people who have repeatedly demanded secure borders,” Waldman said.
“Bad decisions from the Ninth Circuit are directly responsible for the more than 25,000 family units who violated our national sovereignty and are effectively immune to consequences for their illegal actions,” she said.
An unknown number of November’s arrests were members of the caravan groups attempting to cross from Tijuana, where at least 6,000 Central Americans have arrived in the past month with plans to enter the United States.
DHS officials point to the caravans and a recent attempt by some of its members to rush the border fence to bolster their case for billions in border wall funding, while Trump continues to threaten Democrats with a government shutdown.
“If Congress once again kicks the can down the road and refuses to close the well-known and devastating loopholes and fund the President’s wall it will be a continuation of a decade’s long dereliction of duty,” Waldman said.