Surge in Illegal Border Crossings Leads US to Open New Facility

PHOTO: In this Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols Sunland Park along the U.S.-Mexico border next to Ciudad Juarez, the New Mexico border town next to El Paso, Texas.Russell Contreras/AP Photo
In this Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols Sunland Park along the U.S.-Mexico border next to Ciudad Juarez, the New Mexico border town next to El Paso, Texas.

In response to the surge in immigrants crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened a new facility Saturday to help process unaccompanied minors and families.

The total number of Border Patrol apprehensions were up by 23 percent in fiscal year 2016 from the year before and family apprehensions nearly doubled. Apprehensions are used as an indicator of total number of attempts to cross the border illegally.

While the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended was still down from the surge in 2014, it was up significantly over last year.

Those numbers have continued into the fall. In October, 46,195 people were caught attempting to illegally cross the Southwest border. That was up 17 percent from September, according to numbers released in November by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP.

Children, families and individuals continue to flee the violence of Central America making their way to the U.S. border. There has also been an increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum at the border.

The temporary, tented CBP facility, which was opened in Tornillo, Texas, 40 miles east of El Paso, can hold up to 500 people. It will be opened for 30 days, pending any changes in the volume of people entering the U.S. in that region illegally, according to CBP.

PHOTO: The temporary CBP facility in Tornillo, Texas, can hold up to 500 people and was set up to accommodate the surge of illegal immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. Customs and Border Protection
The temporary CBP facility in Tornillo, Texas, can hold up to 500 people and was set up to accommodate the surge of illegal immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border.

"CBP's officers and agents are rising to this challenge with professionalism while maintaining efficient border operations," said El Paso Field Office Director Hector Mancha in a statement.

The facility will be used as overflow space to process individuals apprehended in the El Paso area. Once families and children are processed by CBP they are turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In November, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson authorized ICE to acquire additional detention space for single adults so that those apprehended at the border can be 'returned to their home countries as soon as possible.'

"Our borders cannot be open to illegal migration. We must, therefore, enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities," said Johnson in a statement at the time.

DHS currently prioritized removals of undocumented immigrants who recently crossed the border and those that are convicted of serious crimes.

President-Elect Trump made border security a cornerstone of his campaign platform. He has vowed to build a wall along the Southwest border, although he recently said “fencing” may be acceptable in some parts, and he has said he will build a "deportation force."

Serena Marshall contributed to this story.