PHOENIX — The Border Patrol arrested more than 400,000 people on the southwestern United States border with Mexico this fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.
In a statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the 408,870 arrests were up from about 331,000 reported last fiscal year. However, it is lower than the amount of arrests in the fiscal years of 2013 and 2014.
Johnson said the Border Patrol has seen a notable drop in the number of both Mexican and single adults attempting to cross the border. Instead, more children and families attempting to flee poverty and violence in Central America are trying to illegally enter the United States.
This trend began in 2014, when more Central Americans were caught at the border than Mexicans. The same thing happened in 2016.
Johnson said the changing dynamics along the border are presenting a new challenge to the American immigration system.
“We are determined to treat migrants in a humane manner,” he said. “At the same time, we must enforce our immigration laws consistent with our enforcement priorities. This has included, and will continue to include, providing individuals with an opportunity to assert claims for asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief.”
Johnson said the U.S. is working with Central American nations — both diplomatically and financially — to reduce the causes that push people to consider illegally crossing the border.
Earlier this month, an report commissioned by DHS said slightly more than half of the people who centered the country illegally in 2015 were caught.
In terms of people, 170,000 eluded capture during the 2015 fiscal year, 210,000 the previous year, and 1.7 million in 2005.
The number of people who eluded capture is larger when including those who escaped detection at border crossings or who entered by sea, which is the responsibility of Homeland Security agencies outside the Border Patrol. Adding those, 200,000 people got away last year, 260,000 in 2014, and 1.9 million in 2005.
The huge drop in illegal entries over the last decade coincides with major increases in security spending, which has reached $14 billion annually. The report notes more serious consequences imposed on illegal crossers during that period, which include jail time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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