The number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the US border is at an all-time high. So far, the U.S. Border Patrol has picked up over 10,500 — more than twice the number at the same point last year.
And the number of families trying to cross also has surged, with more than 12,500 people caught — a 173 percent increase over last year.
The vast majority of unaccompanied children and families come from three Central American countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The surge of illegal immigrant children continued unabated in November, pushing the Obama administration to announce emergency measures. Migration usually surges in the spring then drops in the summer and remains low through the winter. This year has defied that trend, leaving the Obama administration scrambling to rejuvenate its capacity to handle a problem that Homeland Security officials hoped was behind them.
The surge of Central American women and children began several years ago and peaked in May and June last year, when more than 20,000 were caught at the US-Mexico border every month. By the end of last year, the numbers had dropped precipitously and Homeland Security officials were optimistic that they had solved the problem.
Under Obama administration policy, illegal immigrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada cannot be sent home quickly. Instead, they must be processed and sent to live in juvenile homes or with sponsors, awaiting court dates that often don’t come for years.