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Texas Matters: A Border Surge And Winslow On 'The Border'

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There appears to be another surge at the southern border, and the most recent reports of number of families looking to gain unauthorized entry into the United States are raising eyebrows. They've certainly inspired a novelist in his latest work.

More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February. That's an 11-year high.

Kevin K. McAlleenan is the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

"It should be very clear from these numbers that we are facing alarming trends in the rising volumes of people illegally crossing our southwest border or arriving at our ports of entry without documents. This increased flow presents currently at our highest levels and over a decade. Both a border security and humanitarian crisis challenges our resources and personnel and is negatively impacting border security. We're also seeing stark increases in asylum seekers as we work to provide lawful and safe access at our southwest border ports of entry. In fiscal year 2018, we saw a 120% increase over fiscal year 2017 with 38,000 claims at southwest border ports of entry taken together. These numbers are remarkable. 76,000 total apprehensions and inadmissible arrivals in a four week a month in February. That's the highest number of encounters in any February in the last 12 years.

"Not only are the numbers increasing, the percentage of people from countries in the northern triangle of Central America has has increased as well. Now, 70% of all crossings are from these countries. Guatemalans and Hondurans are both crossing now in larger numbers than Mexican nationals. Families and children from Central America require increased care and processing and are released into the United States pending adjudication of their immigration claims. We see a new phenomenon of large groups of mostly family units from Guatemala who are traveling on buses through Mexico to the U.S. border in much shorter smuggling cycles, making the journey in as little as four to seven days and on a very consistent basis, and smugglers are dropping these groups in the most remote areas of our border."

The Trump White House reacted to the stats by calling this a massive surge and a clear confirmation of the need for a border wall and for a national emergency to build the wall without the funding approval from Congress.

Ur Jaddou is with America’s Voice, a progressive advocacy group for immigration rights.

"So while there is a steadily changing demographic, the overall numbers are still quite low. Nowhere near what we saw in 2000 which was 1.6 million. So we're still at pretty low numbers. In just the first five months of this fiscal year, the total apprehensions are still at 268,000, and last year it was 397,000, so nowhere near the 1.6 million."

What is happening along the southern border is certainly ripe for storytellers to harvest. There is mystery, crime, heroes and villains. This is rich territory for someone like Don Winslow – a New York Times best selling author of action thrillers.  His latest book is The Border, and it is the conclusion of a trilogy that explored the American drug war. But his latest book is more than a page turner. It is an examination of many of the issues confronting American politics — from security at the southern border to the handling of migrant children, the opiod crisis, how Wall Street profits from it all and those who would exploit fears of the other for political gain.

The Border is a follow up two other bestsellers, The Power of the Dog and The Cartel. The FX networks acquired the rights to turn the trilogy in a TV series.

"Basically, I'm a crime writer. I write crime fiction. I embrace that genre. I don't run from it. But yeah, it's definitely about our times. And I hope that in reading this book that people will get a better understanding of some of the things that are going on."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi