The number of migrants seeking asylum in the United States doubled year-on-year in fiscal year 2018, according to data released Monday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In fiscal year 2018, which ended in September, a total of 38,269 migrants filed asylum requests at U.S. ports of entry along the southern border, while the figure was 17,284 in fiscal year 2017.
Meanwhile, people who attempted to cross borders into the United States illegally before seeking asylum amounted to 54,690 in fiscal year 2018, or 14 percent of all illegal border crossers. In the previous fiscal year, the number was 38,300, or 13 percent of the total.
A CBP officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was quoted by USA Today news portal as saying that the shift in numbers indicated that thousands more migrants are trying to enter the United States by requesting asylum, and that his agency is unable to handle the increasing amount.
He added that the CBP was forced to let migrants queue and wait on the Mexican side of the border for days and weeks.
U.S. President Donald Trump promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border during his presidential campaign in 2016.
More recently, the president's accusation against the caravan migrants from Central American countries has stirred domestic controversy. He also deployed thousands of National Guard troops as well as active-duty military troops to guard the U.S. southern border.
Asked why the country was able to send troops and construct temporary shelters along the border but unable to double down its effort to process more asylum seekers, the CBP officer told reporters in a conference call that improving asylum claims will sacrifice other priorities, such as national security and drug interdiction, USA Today reported.
"To shift resources away from those other competing priorities so that we would process more migrants ...does come at a negative impact of those other missions," the official said.