Record Immigration Surge at U.S.-Mexico Border to Accelerate, Government Projects

The Trump administration is preparing for nearly 180,000 migrants traveling as families to cross the southern border of the U.S. by May, continuing an already record-breaking year.

According to an internal document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection anticipate between 51,000 and 58,000 migrants traveling as families will either cross the border illegally or ask for asylum at a legal border crossing this month. The agency projects that figure will reach as many as 70,000 in May, based on historic trends.

Arrests of families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in the past five months hit a record of 136,150. The tally eclipsed a record of 107,212 families arrested during the entire 2018 fiscal year.

Separately, 21,968 immigrant families asked for asylum at legal border crossings between October and February. The volume of families at those crossings was about the same a year ago.

The flood of families crossing the U.S. border with Mexico represents a “border security and humanitarian crisis” and has left Customs and Border Protection at “the breaking point,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said last week.

Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the document, which is labeled “planning profile.”

Most of the families so far this year are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where they say they face violence, political instability and widespread poverty and hunger. The majority of families surrender to border agents and ask for asylum after crossing into the U.S. illegally. Fewer than 20% of all asylum applications are ultimately granted, but people with children are generally allowed to stay in the U.S. while their requests are adjourned, which typically takes years due to a backlog of more than 829,000 cases in immigration court.

By Alicia A. Caldwell for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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