Apprehensions of undocumented migrants at the Mexican border increased last month after dipping during the winter, immigration authorities said, and they're expected to continue climbing this summer.
Last month, 33,335 people were caught crossing the southern border illegally, 7,259 more than in February, a 28% increase, the Border Patrol said.
Of those, 4,452 were members of families traveling together, 46% more than the month before. Another 4,240 were unaccompanied youth, 37% more than the previous month.
The number of family members caught crossing illegally has nearly tripled compared with this time last year, and the number of unaccompanied children has almost doubled, the figures show.
The figures are substantially higher than in 2014, when an influx of families and children at the border prompted a slew of emergency measures, including expanded processing, detention, shelter and court services. That year, more than 68,500 unaccompanied children and about the same number of family members were caught crossing illegally.
From October through March of this year, nearly 28,000 unaccompanied youth have been caught at the border, a 78% increase compared with this time last year and only 3% less than during the same period of 2013-14.
Many of the youth and family members were from Central America, continuing a trend since migration from the region spiked in 2014, and most crossed the border through Texas' Rio Grande Valley. So far this year, more family members have come from El Salvador (11,093) than at this point last year (10,872).
Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson touted a month-to-month decrease in migration during the winter, noting that immigration officials had staged a series of raids and implying that stepped-up enforcement had tamped down migration. They had detained more than 300 recently arrived migrants, Johnson noted, many of them Central American youths and families.
But illegal crossings on the southern border usually decrease in wintertime. When compared to the previous year, this year's numbers actually increased during the fall and early winter.
In announcing the March figures, immigration officials said apprehensions "were generally in line with seasonal trends we have observed in prior years" and "significantly lower than those from March 2014."
"The Department of Homeland Security continues to closely monitor current migration trends and is working aggressively to address underlying causes and deter future increases in unauthorized migration, while ensuring that those with legitimate humanitarian claims are afforded the opportunity to seek protection," officials said in a statement. "We also continue to support broader regional efforts to address the humanitarian situation in Central America."
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