‘That’s our No. 1 challenge that we have here in the Yuma sector, is the humanitarian problem…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The largest group of migrants seeking access into the U.S. tunneled beneath the border wall near San Luis, Arizona on Monday, according to Customs and Border Protection.
The smugglers dug more than seven holes beneath the steel border fence, hundreds crawling under the wall and others climbing on top of it, the CBP said in a statement. Once the migrants had illegally crossed the border, they voluntarily turned themselves over to authorities.
CBP said that 179 of the 376 people who tunneled under the border were children, including more than 30 unaccompanied minors.
Children now make up a significant size of migrant populations, according to the agency. CBP estimates that families comprise more than 80 percent of the total arrests along the U.S.–Mexico border. Once they cross, they either immediately surrender or they seek out Border Patrol agents to begin the asylum process.
CBP Yuma Border Sector Chief Anthony Porvaznik told ABC News that his unit needs additional funding to better assist these families.
“That’s our No. 1 challenge that we have here in the Yuma sector, is the humanitarian problem,” Porvaznik said. “As I mentioned, 87 percent of the apprehensions here are family units and unaccompanied alien children.”
One Guatemalan father said he paid a “coyote,” or smuggler, $5,000 to quickly get him across the border.
He said he left his wife and two young daughters in Guatemala.
Another man said he planned to leave the processing center and head to San Diego with his 12-year-old daughter.
They had already purchased their plane tickets, ABC News reported.
Porvaznik said the tunneling occurred on an old stretch of sparsely populated border, where only three agents patrol the 26-mile strip.
Once the families had crossed, it took hours for CBP to process all of them.
“In my 30 years with the Border Patrol, I have not been part of arresting a group of 376 people,” Porvaznik said. “That’s really unheard of.”