The number of immigrants arrested or turned away at the southern border has continued to climb to levels not seen for years, say new Department of Homeland Security data reported by Axios. The surge has been driven by an influx of migrant families and unaccompanied children. “At the moment, we have the closest thing to an open border that we’ve had,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and member of a Homeland Security advisory committee formed by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Detention centers are overcrowded, and immigration officials often aren’t able to deport immigrants as quickly through expedited removal procedures. Federal agencies have begun releasing migrant families into the U.S. almost immediately instead of holding them in detention, says Mark Morgan, chief of Customs and Border Protection in the Obama administration. He said this could create an additional incentive for migrants.
The latest data come as the Trump administration is trying to make the case that there is a true emergency at the border, in the face of skepticism in Congress and pushback over his national emergency intended to fund a border wall. The Trump administration is expanding a policy that forces some asylum seekers to stay in Mexico until their case is completed. The government’s track record for caring for migrant children isn’t great. Historically, the number of border crossers begins escalating around March due to the warmer weather, and typically doesn’t peak until May. The U.S. has had this much border activity in the past, but could reach as many as a million apprehensions and inadmissibles this year, according to Morgan — levels not seen for at least a decade. See also: The Silenced Voices at the U.S.-Mexico Border .