U.S. Border Patrol agents are seeing a spike in non-Mexican immigrants crossing the U.S.- Mexico border, particularly among Chinese immigrants, they told NBC 7 San Diego.
"Anytime we see an increase it's a concern to us. We want to make sure we apprehend people as they're coming across the border," Jose Hernandez with U.S. Border Patrol San Diego sector said Wednesday.
In 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees apprehended more than 2,000 immigrants not from Mexico crossing the border illegally. In just the first four months of 2016 there were more than 2,500 such immigrants apprehended. Hernandez says they've seen a 225 percent jump compared to this time last year.
"It takes a little longer to process someone who is other than Mexican simply because of the paper work that's involved in it, but that's part of the job," Hernandez said.
In April, a passerby spotted a group of young men walking along State Route 94 near Potrero. Agents responded and detained seven Chinese nationals.
Those seven are just a handful of more than 660 apprehended Chinese immigrants to cross the Tijuana-California border this year. It's a jump from fewer than 50 Chinese immigrants apprehended in 2015 and just five apprehended the year before.
"All the people we are apprehending are circumventing the port of entry," Hernandez said. "So they're coming across in the mountains or through the deserts."
Hernandez said agents have had to shift personnel and adjust the way they operate a bit in order to cover those areas where more non-Mexican immigrants are crossing the border.
"Pretty much everybody who comes across the border is assisted in some way, shape or form with the transnational criminal organizations along the border," Hernandez said.