WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The total apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol agents of people trying to illegally cross the border between the United States and Mexico increased in 2016 from last year but is lower than the two years prior.
In 2016, there were 408,870 total apprehensions, a 23 percent increase from 2015 in which there were 331,333 apprehensions, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. The 2016 numbers, though, represent a 14.7 percent decrease from the 479,371 apprehensions in 2014, and a 1.3 percent decrease from the 414,397 apprehensions in 2013.
"The demographics of illegal migration on our southern border has changed significantly over the last 15 years -- far fewer Mexicans and single adults are attempting to cross the border without authorization, but more families and unaccompanied children are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America," Johnson wrote.
The number of Central Americans apprehended at the southern border outnumbered Mexicans for the first time in 2014, and in 2016 the situation occurred again, Johnson added.
In 2016, there were 59,692 unaccompanied children, 77,674 people who attempted to cross the border as a family, and 271,504 individuals who attempted to cross the border illegally.
Johnson said that though President Barack Obama's administration has "endeavored to enforce the immigration laws in a fair and humane way ... the reality is the system is broken, and badly need of comprehensive immigration reform that only Congress can provide."
Johnson called on Congress and the United States' next president, likely to be either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump, to "make smart investments in border security technology, equipment and other resources."
"Border security alone cannot overcome the powerful push factors of poverty and violence that exist in Central America. Walls alone cannot prevent illegal migration," Johnson wrote. "Ultimately, the solution is long-term investment in Central America to address the underlying push factors in the region."