This week, Arizona 360 embarked on a journey to continue our coverage of border-related issues. We traveled across state lines to trace the international border through New Mexico and to El Paso, Texas where President Trump held a campaign rally Monday. Our travels took us to the rally, and to communities along the way, where we sought to understand if rhetoric about border security reflects a crisis at the U.S. southern border.
Custom and Border Protection's El Paso Sector covers more than 260 miles of border and also includes all of New Mexico. Of all nine sectors that comprise the southwestern border, the El Paso Sector has seen the largest increase in family units apprehended within the agency's last fiscal year. As of January, agents encountered more than 25,000 family units, representing an increase of nearly 1,600 percent compared to the fiscal year-to-date in January 2018. Lorraine Rivera traveled to sector headquarters to discuss some of the challenges the agency encounters in the region. Spokesperson Joe Romero described a decrease overall in the number of apprehensions within the last decade, but said the recent influx of families has strained resources.
"It takes a little bit more manpower, a lot more hours. But it works in cooperation with us working closely with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]; working with other agencies to ensure that we're able to facilitate all of this," Romero said. "Right now, it's still manageable but it definitely puts more of a strain on what we're doing right now as opposed to what we were doing 10 or 12 years ago."
Romero added that Border Patrol is an apolitical agency focused on enforcing the laws on the books.
"We're always looking for ways to improve what we're doing because whether it's one family that gets away from us, a murderer that gets away from us, a serial killer that gets away from us, somebody will be impacted by that in some way."