Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to El Paso that the immigration system is nearing its "breaking point." He said Border Patrol officers have taken in more than 12,000 illegal border crossers over the last two days -- a level he described as "unprecedented."

"CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border—and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso," McAleenan said. "A high number is 4,000 — 6,000 is crisis level. 12,000 is unprecedented. On Monday, we saw the highest total of apprehensions and encounters in years, with over 4,000 in a single day."

McAleenan said he anticipates at least 90,000 apprehensions of illegal border crossers in March. If that happens, it'll be the largest number of apprehensions over a single calendar month in more than a decade.

McAleenan indicated that most illegal border crossers are claiming asylum, but only 10-15% have legitimate claims, so the immigration courts are being overrun with claims that will ultimately be denied. He urged Congress to close the loopholes, specifically increasing the 'credible fear' standard, so only migrants with legitimate claims to asylum are allowed to continue with the process.

While Border Patrol encountered massive illegal crossings between 2000-08, most of the illegal border crossers were Mexican nationals, so it was much easier for Border Patrol to process them and return them back across the border. But most of the illegal border crossers this fiscal year are coming from Central America, which makes it much more difficult for them to be returned home.

For more on this story, see the El Paso Times.

border control

Updated: Wed, Apr 10th 2019 @ 4:15pm EDT