SAN DIEGO — Nearly three-quarters of those in the caravan of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico to the United States are adult men, a senior Border Patrol official told the Washington Examiner.
Families and unaccompanied children make up "about 20 to 30 percent" of the caravan, according to Roy Villareal, deputy chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol's San Diego Sector.
"The rest of that is single, adult males," Villareal said during a recent tour of the region.
Single-parent families and children who illegally enter the country will not be prosecuted, unlike adults.
If a one-parent family or child is found to have illegally entered the country, they may also still claim asylum.
The process of having an asylum claim heard before a judge can take a couple of years. Due to the Department of Homeland Security's inability to hold more than a few thousand people at a time, tens of thousands of people were released into the country in fiscal 2018 and told to appear for immigration court dates in the future.
[Related: Trump: Asylum seekers can expect 'tent cities' upon reaching the US]
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have said the inability to deport immediately has incentivized people to illegally enter rather than request asylum at a port of entry.
Single adults, who if found to have trespassed, will be referred by CBP to the Justice Department for prosecution. First-time illegal entry is a misdemeanor and subsequently it is a felony.
"At some point, those single, adult males — when they show up at the border — may look to utilize those smuggling services," said Villareal.
Each person in the group of migrants traveling to the U.S. in the caravan will have to save up to $9,000, depending on what a cartel will charge to transport them into the U.S.
Because single men will immediately be processed, referred for prosecution, and then removed, they typically want to avoid being caught and do not want to request asylum at a port of entry.
"There’s a very effective cartel control mechanism on the south side of the border, so one way or another I think they’ll extract a toll, it may not be the full extent, but one way or another, I think they’ll take advantage of the situation," the official said.
Eighty percent of asylum cases were not granted in 2017.