Illegal immigration by families surges 38 percent

Illegal immigration from Central America is setting a record pace, with nearly 40,000 families and children traveling alone being caught on the southwest border in just the first three months of the fiscal year, according to new Border Patrol numbers.

In December alone nearly 9,000 family members were caught — a staggering 38 percent increase compared to November, and by far the highest total ever for the last month of the year. Border Patrol agents also nabbed another 6,800 children traveling alone, which was a 21 percent increase over November.

Together they mark the largest single month of families and unaccompanied minors since the height of the surge in late spring 2014 — when the weather was more conducive to crossing. By contrast, the winter is usually a slower month for illegal traffic, making the new numbers all the more troubling to an administration struggling to devise a response.

Faced with few good options, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month announced a series of raids intended to capture and deport some of the women and children caught in 2014 who have been ordered deported but are refusing to leave. The administration is hoping that if folks in Central America see some deportations, they’ll think twice about making the trip themselves.