WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify about the Biden administration’s response to the border crisis at a Thursday Senate committee hearing.
The most recent numbers, published Wednesday, showed improvements in the number of children found wandering alone, though they were still higher than normal.
Authorities encountered 17,171 children traveling alone, down 9% from 18,960 in March, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but still well above the previous high of 11,475 reported in May 2019 by the Border Patrol, which began publishing numbers in 2009.
Overall, the Border Patrol’s 173,460 encounters with migrants on the Mexican border in April were up 3% from 169,213 in March, the highest level since April 2000. The numbers aren’t directly comparable because a solid majority of those stopped in April were quickly expelled from the country under federal pandemic-related powers that deny rights to seek asylum. Being expelled carries no legal consequences, so many people try to cross multiple times.
Border Patrol encounters with people coming in families fell in similar proportion to unaccompanied children — down 10% to 48,226 from 53,406 in March. Slightly more than one of three family encounters resulted in pandemic-related expulsions.
But even as those numbers fall, local law enforcement along the border is calling for help. Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Dannels said Border Patrol has not properly staffed highway checkpoints for months in his county, leaving his deputies as the last line of defense against criminal organizations.
“People are truly on edge in my county about what’s going on because they don’t see the solutions. What they do see is the trafficking, the invasion to their way of life, the trespass, the pursuit. I worry about that. The horrific event that is looming out there. A citizen or law enforcement is going to get killed,” said Dannels.
Felicia Bolton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.