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2019 on track to experience highest level of illegal immigration in a decade

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Unusually high illegal immigration in January and February at the U.S.-Mexico border has put fiscal year 2019 on pace to experience the highest levels of unauthorized migration in a decade.

Roughly 58,000 migrants were detained at the U.S. southern border in January. Preliminary figures show the rate is only climbing, with over 70,000 recorded migrant apprehensions in February. In fact, one day in February made history as being the largest number of “family unit apprehensions” ever recorded on a single day. The Department of Homeland Security is expecting even larger numbers for March and April, putting 2019 in position to witness record levels of illegal immigration.

“The numbers are staggering, and we’re incredibly worried that we will see another huge increase in March,” a Homeland Security Official said to The Washington Post.

Critics of President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration for the southern border point out that these numbers, while they are rising, are still historically lower than the levels of illegal immigration seen in the early 1990s and 2000s. However, it’s the type of illegal immigration, border patrol officials say, that is causing the crisis.

The extremely high number of Central American migrants reaching the southern border are not from Mexico or Canada, which means they cannot be quickly deported due to trafficking laws. Many of them are family units, not individuals. Also, instead of trying to evade border enforcement officials, they are actively seeking them out and simply pleading for asylum.

Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost says the combination has stretched her agency to the breaking point.

“Each day, nearly 25 percent of my agents are diverted away from our border security mission to care for, transport and process family members and unaccompanied children,” Provost said while testifying in front of a House Judiciary committee. “We know that when agents are occupied, narcotics smugglers, criminal aliens, gang members and others use the opportunity to violate our borders and our laws.”

Undocumented immigrants just released from detention through "catch and release" immigration policy stand at a bus station before being taken to the Catholic Charities relief center in McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Undocumented immigrants just released from detention through “catch and release” immigration policy stand at a bus station before being taken to the Catholic Charities relief center in McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Along with declaring a national emergency at the border, giving him $8 billion to fund a border wall, the president has implemented other strategies to curb illegal immigration into the country.

The president’s “remain in Mexico” policy seeks to keep asylum-seeking Central Americans in Mexico as they wait for the claims to be processed through the U.S. immigration courts, preventing many illegals from claiming asylum and simply disappearing within the interior of the U.S. However, this policy has been confined to San Ysidro port of entry in California. (RELATED: Another Democratic Governor Is Pulling National Guard Troops From The Border)

The president’s travel ban on several, mostly Muslim, countries has led to nearly 40,000 visa applications getting denied in 2018.

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