Record number of undocumented immigrants flooded the southern border in May

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By Julia Ainsley and Rich Schapiro  with NBC News Politics
Image: Border Patrol agents watch over detained migrants near El Paso, Texa
Border Patrol agents watch over detained migrants near El Paso, Texas, on May 19, 2019.   -  Copyright  Mario Tama Getty Images file

Border Patrol officers encountered more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants at the southwest border in May, the largest monthly total in 13 years, officials said Wednesday.

More than 132,000 were stopped while crossing the border illegally; the rest presented themselves at legal ports of entry, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

May marked the third month in a row that more than 100,000 immigrants were taken into custody at the border amid a surge of migrants heading north in large groups from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

More than 19,000 immigrants are currently in CBP custody. Nearly 1,000 border patrol officers have been moved from northern ports of entry, airports, sea ports and elsewhere along the southwest border to assist border agents in areas experiencing the highest influx of migrants.

"We are in a full-blown emergency, and I cannot say this stronger: The system is broken," said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders.

Of the 132,000 who were caught entering the country illegally, more than 84,000 were traveling as a family unit, 36,000 were single adults and 11,000 were unaccompanied children.