The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that "illegal" crossing attempts from the Southwest border tripled in March compared with a year ago.
"We saw a 203 percent increase from March 2017 compared to March 2018 and a 37 percent increase from last month to this month — the largest increase from month to month since 2011," Tyler Houlton, the DHS press secretary, said in a statement.
It comes on the heels of President Donald Trump this week announcing a plan to deploy National Guard troops at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump also repeated his call for more security at the border in remarks Thursday while making claims about an immigrant "caravan" in Mexico heading toward the U.S. border.
The DHS official also said "the crisis at our Southwest border is real. The number of illegal border crossings during the month of March shows an urgent need to address the ongoing situation at the border."
The government's data show there were a total of 50,308 people last month that were apprehended or deemed "inadmissible" at the Southwest border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That was up 37 percent from March 2017, when there were 16,588 people stopped, and up 203 percent from February 2018's tally of 36,695 people.
DHS considers a person "inadmissible" when they appear at a port of entry without proper documentation for legal entry into the U.S. Those apprehended are individuals "caught trying to enter illegally between ports of entry." The government's data also tracks the number of family units attempting to cross at the Southwest border as well as what the agency calls UAC, or "unaccompanied alien children."
While 37 percent is the highest month-over-month increase since 2011, the actual number of people — 50,308 — is lower than what was experienced last fall. For example, October and November 2017 both produced monthly totals exceeding 63,000 attempted crossings.
So far this year, the biggest number of apprehensions have been recorded in the Rio Grande sector in Texas, followed by the Tucson and Yuma sectors in Arizona, according to the government. The Rio Grande sector accounted for about 60 percent of the apprehensions on the Southwest border last year.
"Illegal aliens continue to exploit our immigration laws," Houlton said. "We need to close these dangerous loopholes that are being taken advantage of each and every day, gain operational control of the border, and fully fund the border wall system. As the President has repeatedly said, all options are on the table."