Central American families, children cross into United States near Yuma

The Trump administration previously tried to implement a new rule that would ban migrants from requesting asylum if they illegally cross the border in a bid to encourage applying to asylum outside the U.S.

The group dug under a steel barrier in seven spots about 16 kilometres east of a border crossing in San Luis, and made no apparent effort to elude immigration agents.

Almost 400 migrants traveled underground Monday through a series of tunnels built by smugglers before turning themselves in to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in what appears to be the largest single group of migrants ever attempting to seek asylum.

The largest single group of asylum-seekers to be taken into custody in the US reportedly tunneled beneath a section of the border wall outside Yuma, Arizona.

Yuma Border Sector Chief Anthony Porvaznik said the large group was "really unheard of". The majority of them surrender immediately or seek out Border Patrol agents to start the asylum process.

There are often groups of 20 to 30 people, sometimes as large as 100, apprehended in the Yuma area, according to a Customs and Border Protection official.

While Border Patrol officials have discovered sophisticated tunnels used to move people or drugs under existing border fencing, one United States official familiar with the incident said the migrants involved in Monday's crossing had simply dug a hole under the border fence and slipped underneath.

Some fencing in the Yuma area is expected to be replaced with new fencing paid for with funds appropriated by Congress past year. In those spots, there is no concrete footing to prevent digging.

The U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement Friday that the latest group of migrants arrived at Antelope Wells on Thursday and were mostly families and unaccompanied children.

There were 396,579 arrests on the Mexican border in the 2018 financial year, an increase of 30% on a 46-year low during the same period a year earlier - but still well below a high of more than 1.6 million in 2000.

Some border security experts have instead called for improving security at ports of entry and adding new technology along the border to detect and deter illegal crossings.

The majority of crossers are parents with children, making up more than 80 percent.

But despite a recent surge in asylum-seeking families from Central America in recent months, the data indicated that border arrests remain low by historical standards.

"This is an ongoing situation that Border Patrol Agents face in southern New Mexico: hundreds of parents and children being encountered by agents after having faced a treacherous journey in the hands of risky smugglers", the Border Patrol said. The video shows numerous children being passed over the barrier, as well.

  • Rogelio Becker