The number of illegal immigrant children age 17 caught by U.S. officials in the Southwest swelled in March, a trend that immigration watchers say will continue as the weather improves throughout the summer.
The U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended 15,647 unaccompanied children attempting to enter the country illegally between October 2014 and March 2015, according to updated federal data. That’s an increase of 3,138 minors in the month of March, according to federal statistics through the end of February.
In recent months, U.S. officials have typically seen the arrival of 2,000-something juveniles, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
While that’s a stark increase in recent months, the uptick isn’t yet putting 2015 on par with the overwhelming influx of illegal immigrants during the summer of 2014. (RELATED: Senator Questions Wasteful Spending During Unaccompanied Minors Influx)
The federal government apprehended 28,579 unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally during the 2014 fiscal year, as well as 19,830 family units. The historically high influx was the result of a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries.
Between 2013 and 2014, the number of unaccompanied children caught crossing the border illegally from Guatemala and Honduras more than doubled; child immigrants from El Salvador almost tripled.
The fiscal year is only half over and it remains to be seen whether the number of illegal immigrants surges again over the summer. So far, the number of children stopped by U.S. Border Patrol officials doesn’t look like it will reach 2014’s unprecedented levels — compared to the same time period last year, the number of illegal immigrant children apprehended has dropped from 28,579 in 2014 to 15,647 so far this year.
However, 2015 may turn out to be the second-biggest year on record. So far, this year’s influx of illegal immigrant minors outpaces 2012 and 2013, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors low-scale immigration levels.
“These statistics show that the surge of illegal arrivals from Central America was never really over,” CIS policy studies director Jessica Vaughan said in a statement last week.
Vaughan reports that of last year’s influx of illegal immigrant minors, about 90 percent who had immigration hearings scheduled last summer and fall did not show up.
The Obama administration is also moving forward with a program to welcome the children, grandchildren and occasionally spouses of legal immigrants from Central America. (RELATED: US Admin Quietly Welcoming Central American Immigrants In New Program)