Large groups of Central American migrants have continued to breach the U.S. border, with 500 found in remote desert areas of New Mexico this week alone.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told the Associated Press on Tuesday that groups of 257 and 239 migrants, respectively, were encountered by CBP agents this week.
“This is a brand-new phenomenon,” he said during a conference call. “It’s really challenging our resources.”
Prior to the migrant caravan’s trek that began in October, McAleenan said U.S. authorities encountered groups of more than 100 migrants just eight times in the preceding year. However, since October, they have now encountered “nearly four times that amount.”
Approximately once or twice a week, large migrants groups were arriving at the border, but McAleenan said the groups have been increasing significantly in frequency over the past few weeks.
The influx of migrants has prompted the U.S. to make personnel adjustments, assigning more vehicles and medical professionals to Lordsburg and Antelope Wells – two of the suddenly popular entry points in New Mexico.
“In a group as large as 250 you’re going to have medical issues,” McAleenan said. “You’re going to have people that have the flu, and people that have scabies or lice or other skin conditions, and so we are making hospital runs with pretty much every group that arrives at this time.”
Tucson Sector agents assigned to the Ajo Border Patrol Station came upon three large groups of Central American migrants during a 48-hour period that began on Sunday evening. https://t.co/ohIzFObF17
— ACT for America (@ACTforAmerica) December 12, 2018
McAleenan said that migrants described their journey from Guatemala, during which they used commercial buses over a span of four to five days to get to the U.S. border. There, the buses dropped them off near Antelope Wells where migrants only had to overcome a barbed wire fence to be on U.S. soil.
McAleenan added that it’s unusual for migrants to enter through remote areas like Antelope Wells, where only 30 cars cross each day, compared to tens of thousands in a large city like San Diego. He added that smugglers may charge less to cross in the remote areas.
Many of the migrants encountered have sought out U.S. authorities to surrender, both at the border and in encounters on U.S. soil. Migrants are reportedly seeking asylum and humanitarian aid.
On Dec. 6, a group of 163 migrants was also encountered near Antelope Wells.
In that group, authorities encountered 7-year-old Jakelin Caal who died hours after she was taken into CBP custody with her family, the Washington Examiner had reported.
“After completing a days-long, dangerous journey through remote and barren terrain, the child, who according to the father had not been able to consume water or food for days, began vomiting, went into sepsis shock and after receiving emergency treatment from U.S. Border Patrol Emergency Response Technicians (EMTs), air paramedics and emergency room personnel, died,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.