US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported they arrested the largest group of illegal immigrants crossing US-Mexico border on their record earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the Border Patrol arrested a group of 247 people, mostly from Central America, who turned themselves in to agents in a highly remote part of New Mexico, where authorities have found 25 groups of more than 100 people since October.
The tunnels - a few feet long - were reportedly dug by smugglers under the steel border fence, letting hundreds of supposed asylum seekers enter the U.S, according to the Customs and Border Protection.
Yuma Border Sector Chief Anthony Porvaznik said the large group was "really unheard of". "The vast majority of them, like the group near Yuma Monday, surrender immediately or seek out Border Patrol agents in order to begin the asylum process".
President Donald Trump's administration had tried to forbid migrants from requesting asylum after crossing the border illegally, but that move was struck down by a federal judge in November. Last month, a seven-year-old girl from Guatemala, who was among a group of 163 people, died after crossing the border near Antelope Wells with her father.
Were there children in the group?
Of those 48,287 family units, and 10,265 unaccompanied minor children apprehended throughout the nine sectors, almost half of the apprehensions took place in the Valley during that same period, with 23,012 family units, and 4,627 unaccompanied minor children apprehended, according to Border Patrol statistics.
"That's our No. 1 challenge that we have here in the Yuma sector, is the humanitarian problem", he told ABC News.
"Parents with children now comprise over 80 percent of the total apprehensions of those crossing the 2,000-mile long border with Mexico", reports ABC News.
Questions also remain about whether a wall would alleviate the humanitarian situation driven by an uptick in asylum seekers presenting themselves at the United States border.
One particular case highlighted by ABC News was a man who paid coyotes $5,000 to lead him and his 12-year-old daughter up from Guatemala to the US border, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. "As I mentioned, 87 percent of the apprehensions here are family units and unaccompanied alien children". The migrants were transported to the central processing center near Yuma.
Deadlock over the demand led to the partial federal government shutdown, which entered its 28th day on Friday and is now the longest in USA history.
Trump has declared the situation at the border a national security and humanitarian crisis, and demanded $5.7 billion in border wall funding from Congress.
The number of people being taken into custody after illegally crossing the border has fluctuated in recent years between 400,000 and 570,000 people.