Poverty and violence in Central America are reflected in the changing demographics of fiscal 2016 apprehensions by the Border Patrol, which have risen since FY15, but are lower than FY14 and FY13, reported Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in a recent news release.

There were 408,870 documented apprehensions between ports of entry on the southwest border for FY16, up from 331,333 last year, with unaccompanied children and families from Central America outnumbering Mexicans and single adults for the second time (the first being FY14). 

Immigration enforcement priorities announced in 2014 focusing on convicted criminals have shown results, with 99 percent of those in immigration detention fitting an enforcement priority (85 percent being within the top priority for removal). A standing U.S.-Mexican working group ensures a permanent dialogue on security issues, and working with interagency partners is allowing the targeting and apprehension of those who smuggle and exploit migrants.

"We are determined to treat migrants in a humane manner. At the same time, we must enforce our immigration laws consistent with our enforcement priorities," Johnson said. "This has included, and will continue to include, providing individuals with an opportunity to assert claims for asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief. At the same time, we are providing safe, alternative paths to our country for individuals in need of humanitarian protection."

In light of Hurricane Matthew, DHS and the Department of State are working with the Haitian government to promote safe, humanitarian removal of illegal Haitian nationals from U.S. soil.

Protection transfer arrangements and in-country referral programs for refugee protection help in addressing the underlying push factors that are an integral part of the long-term solution to illegal migration, Johnson said, adding that Congress is urged to provide additional resources in FY17.

At the same time, he continued, the next administration is urged to make smart investments in border security technologies and equipment along the way to comprehensive immigration reform only available through Congress.

"For one thing, we must reckon with the millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows in this country, who've been here for years, and who should be given the opportunity to come forward and get right with the law," he said. "It is my profound hope that the next Congress will finally address this and other issues and enact comprehensive immigration reform."

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