'Breaking point': US southern border influx surges to 76,000

New figures suggest harsher policies implemented by the Trump administration are failing to deter mass migration.

    Migrants and refugees begin their journey towards the US border on a highway in San Salvador [Salvador Melendez/AP]
    Migrants and refugees begin their journey towards the US border on a highway in San Salvador [Salvador Melendez/AP]

    The United States faces a major humanitarian crisis with its southwestern border at a security "breaking point" as tens of thousands of mostly Central Americans increasingly try to enter the country.

    More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorisation last month, nearly double the number from the same period in 2018, officials said.

    The figures suggest harsher regulations and detention policies implemented by the American government - including separating families and incarcerating migrant children - are failing to deter mass migration into the US.

    "The system is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point," Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters on Tuesday.

    Arrests along the southern border surged 97 percent since last year, the border patrol said. About 50,000 adults are currently in the custody of immigration authorities.

    'Not sustainable'

    Migrant families mainly from Central America continue to arrive en masse despite the new immigration restrictions in remote parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, with border patrol offices understaffed and unprepared to deal with the massive influx.

    Thousands of migrants are being released into the care of non-governmental organisations inside the US, which are also increasingly overwhelmed.

    "We had never seen these kinds of numbers," Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, told the New York Times.

    Garcia's group was forced to call churches in the Texan city El Paso to ask for temporary accommodation. "We just didn't have the space," he said. 

    McAleenan announced major changes to procedures for guaranteeing proper medical care for migrants in Customs and Border Protection's custody. The move was made in response to the deaths of two migrant children being held in December.

    Efforts include hiring more healthcare practitioners and increased translation services.

    "These solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable," McAleenan said. "This is clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News