Arrests along the southern border of illegal immigrants rose in February as congressional leaders warn that the United States could face a record-breaking surge of illegal immigrants in 2016, according to statistics issued late Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security.
More than 26,000 illegals, mostly adults, were arrested at the border in February, marking a rise from the 23,761 who were arrested in January of this year, according to DHS.
"The overall 10 percent increase from January is due to an increase in apprehensions of single adults, from 17,505 in January to 19,917 in February, 71.5 percent of whom are from Mexico," DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement on the statistics. "Notably, one year ago, in February 2015, the number of apprehensions of single adults was 19,950, and in February 2014 the number was 28,277."
While DHS has attempted to portray the increase as slight and below levels set at the end of 2015, lawmakers in Congress warn that the flow of illegal immigrants is expected to break records in 2016.
More than 331,000 illegal immigrants were snagged at the southern border in 2015, according to government oversight officials. An increase in the flow of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children has already been detected in 2016.
As of January, at least 20,455 unaccompanied minors had been caught during fiscal year 2016.
"If these trends continue, we can expect to see an even greater number of minors crossing the border this year than in 2014," when a record number of illegal children crossed into the United States, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) warned last month during a hearing with senior Obama administration officials.
As border crossings rise to unprecedented levels, the Obama administration has deported just 4,680 of more than 127,000 minors who were apprehended on the border during the past two-and-a-half years.
"We’re having an increase … this year, twice as many unaccompanied minors are entering the country as last year because there’s no effective response to this," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) noted last month. "The president’s answer is to assume basically that every child is a victim of an asylum type danger and entitled to enter the U.S."
The latest statistics indicate that the illegal crossing of both children and adults is continuing to rise.
Johnson maintained that DHS is taking steps to increase border patrols and deport apprehended individuals.
"Our borders are not open to illegal migration," Johnson said. "If someone was apprehended at the border, has been ordered removed by an immigration court, has no pending appeal, and does not qualify for asylum or other relief from removal under our laws, he or she must be sent home. We must and we will enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities."
DHS also is working to allocate more than $17 million to a new effort to provide legal assistance and other services to illegal immigrant children who are already in the United States.