The number of unaccompanied minor immigrants crossing the southwest border into the United States surged 117 percent in the first months of fiscal year 2016 when compared with the same time period in the last fiscal year.
More than 17,300 minor immigrants were apprehended when attempting to enter the country between the start of October and the end of December, according to statistics released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That figure is more than twice the nearly 8,000 apprehensions that were recorded during the first three months of fiscal year 2015.
The apprehensions of family units between October and December also increased by 187 percent over the same time period the previous year. More than 21,400 family units were caught crossing the southwest border, nearly three times the approximately 7,500 apprehended during the first three months of fiscal year 2015.
Federal officials have been bracing for a surge in immigrants at the southern border. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement recently opened two temporary shelters with 1,000 beds in South Texas along with a 400-bed shelter in California to house immigrants crossing into the country.
HHS also asked the Department of Defense in December to make preparations for 5,000 additional beds to be made available should they be needed.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS has begun a process to expand its temporary capacity to house unaccompanied children. This is a prudent step to ensure that the Border Patrol can continue its vital national security mission to prevent illegal migration, trafficking, and protect the borders of the United States," the Customs and Border Protection release read, noting the increase in apprehensions of unaccompanied immigrant children.
"The entire administration has been closely monitoring these current trends and coordinating across the whole of government to ensure an effective response to any changes in migration flows."
Having increased the number of temporary shelter beds from 7,900 to 8,400 in November, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is "continuously analyzing and monitoring bed capacity of unaccompanied children referred to HHS, as well as the information received from interagency partners, to inform any future decisions or actions."