The number of illegal immigrants sneaking into US territory increased 15% in 2016, straining the resources of homeland security agents policing the border.
In a statement issued last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it arrested 530,250 illegal immigrants, and sent 450,954 people back to their home countries over the 12-month period that ended last September.
The news strengthens the argument of President-elect Donald Trump, who has long been advocating for building a wall along the country’s border with Mexico in a last ditch attempt to block the immigrants from entering the United States. But liberals are saying that building a wall could cost the US about $11.37 billion and hamper the movement of vehicles and people that legally cross the border.
Most of those coming through the border are not Mexicans; they are Central Americans fleeing violence in countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, according to the data from the the DHS.
Trump’s transition team has reportedly asked the department for more information about immigration, with some of his advisers calling for an expansion of immigrant detention and an intensification of aerial surveillance.
“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,” said the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Immigration advocates are urging the government not to throw immigrants into detention centers, saying that many of them are women and children and that the detention would not deter others from making attempts to sneak into the US.
Analysts say the number of detention centers would only increase under the Trump administration. John Kelly, retired marine general, who has been picked up by Trump to run the Department of Homeland Security, has already started talking tough about immigrants from Mexico and Central America.