- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

The number of illegal immigrant children and families crossing the border surged again in July, combining for the worst month so far in 2016, according to Border Patrol statistics released Friday.

More than 7,500 people traveling in families were nabbed in the southwest, and another 5,068 children traveling alone were also caught at the border, as Central Americans continue to flee their troubled home countries, pushed by violence at home and drawn by the hope that Obama administration policies will allow them to stay in the U.S.

The numbers are all the more troubling because they show an increase just as the peak of summer hit — a time when, officials say, the hot weather usually tamps down on the flow. But July saw increases in both children and families.

Perhaps anticipating the surge, the Obama administration last month announced a series of new programs designed to allow children and their extended relatives to apply for passage to the U.S. from their home countries. The goal is to pressure them into safer routes, rather than have them make the harrowing journey through Mexico.

Homeland Security officials saw a glass-half-full situation in the numbers, pointing to a slight drop in the overall number of illegal immigrants caught — which slipped 2 percent from June to July — as evidence things may be turning in the right direction.

“Overall apprehensions by the Border Patrol in July along our southwest border – an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally – fell during the month of July, although apprehensions of unaccompanied children and family units increased somewhat from June. These trends are generally in line with seasonal patterns we have observed in previous years,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security agency that oversees the Border Patrol, said in releasing the numbers.

The Obama administration is trapped in between conflicting political pressures on immigration, and has tried to cut a middle path, allowing almost all illegal immigrants in the interior of the U.S. to remain without fear of being deported, and instead targeting those still trying to cross now.

But mixed messages have hurt that goal, with many would-be crossers from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala believing they can ask for asylum once they reach the U.S. An increasing number are, indeed, being granted at least initial protections, enticing more to try.

Human rights groups have said the entire category of illegal immigrants from the worst countries of Central America should be granted refugee status, preventing their deportation.

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