According to numbers released by the Department of Homeland Security, the United States saw a 15% increase in illegal immigration in 2016.
Fox News reporter Adam Housley related the surge to a similar circumstance in 2014 and said that most immigrants are coming from Central and South America.
Specifically, immigrants are fleeing countries with high crime rates, such as:
- El Salvador
Due to the violent conditions in those countries, human rights activists are urging the Obama administration to treat the surge as a “refugee crisis.”
On Friday, Homeland Security officials said many of the immigrants from Central America applied for asylum in America with claims of "credible or reasonable fear of persecution.”
Numbers released on Friday show an increase of 67,922 Department of Homeland Security apprehensions.
The 23% increase in Border Patrol arrests are attributed to the problems in Central America, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Administration officials claimed that the 450,954 removals and returns in 2016 reflected a policy shift to target convicted criminals. In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said:
“We continued to better focus our interior resources on removing individuals who may pose threats to public safety — specifically, convicted criminals and threats to national security."
Statistics released by DHS reported that 91% of apprehensions were part of the enforcement category “Priority 1.” The top priority category includes:
- National security threats
- Individuals apprehended at the border while attempting to enter unlawfully
- The most serious categories of convicted criminals as well as gang members
The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) was made effective in 2015 by the Obama Administration as an attempt to focus deportation attention on people who posed a threat to Americans.
However, some immigration human rights advocates believe the policy change came too late. J. Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies, told the Washington Post:
“In the end, the president will be remembered as a deporter, not a reformer. In the first four years, he set record numbers in removals, much to the dismay of the immigrant community."
During Obama's first term in office, over 400,000 immigrants were deported.
Sanctuary cities with limited or no cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have played a significant factor in impacting removal operations.
The DHS report stated that PEP promoted collaboration, and in 2016, 82% of the top jurisdictions have agreed to participate in the program.
The new program hopes to prevent illegal immigrants who have repeatedly committed crimes from being protected from deportation by sanctuary cities.