Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More than 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month – The New York Times

“We just didn’t have the space,” Mr. Garcia said.

Border Patrol officials said that the biggest “pull factors” encouraging migrant families to make their way to the United States were federal laws and court settlements that prohibit the authorities from deporting Central Americans without lengthy processing, and from detaining migrant families for more than 20 days, after which they must be released into the country while they await immigration court proceedings. Others at the agency pointed to severe poverty and food insecurity in the Western highlands of Guatemala, where many of the families are from, as a primary motivation.

As of March 3, 268,044 migrants had been apprehended along the southwest border since the fiscal year began in October, a 97 percent increase from the previous year, according to government figures.

The larger numbers and the surge into more remote areas of the border have drawn new attention to longstanding problems with medical services provided by Customs and Border Protection. Migrant families, in particular, tend to arrive in urgent need of medical attention, the agency said, which has strained resources and drawn agents away from their law enforcement duties.

Last year, the agency referred 12,000 border crossers to emergency rooms for care, each one requiring an agent to wait with them at the hospital and ensure they were immediately returned to federal custody upon release. The rates of hospital referrals are increasing, the agency said, with about 145 agents per day currently acting as hospital escorts. Meanwhile, cocaine seizures for the current fiscal year have already exceeded the previous one, and methamphetamine seizures have also increased, according to the agency, a situation that also is demanding staff resources.

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