(CNSNews.com) - Unaccompanied children crossing the southern border into the United States still number in the thousands, probably the tens of thousands, even though the percentages are lower, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Thursday.
"For the kids, unaccompanied kids, it's running about 40 percent lower," Johnson said. "I hope it stays that way, but we have to be prepared in the event it doesn't."
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said he's happy the percentages are down, but he pressed Johnson to give him the "total numbers."
"Last year, 2014, the total number including the Mexican UACs (unaccompanied children), I believe, was 68,000," Johnson replied. "If you take out the -- and I'm doing this from memory now. If you take out the Mexican children, I believe the total number was about 58,000. I suspect, if it stays at the current rate, will come in at around 40 percent, 60 percent of 68,000, whatever that number is."
(Forty percent would be 27,200; 60 percent would be 40,800.)
"So you're still talking about -- and percentages are lower, but you're still talking about...
"Thousands of people, yes," Johnson said.
"Yes, yes, thousands..." Cuellar echoed.
Cuellar rounded the number of unaccompanied children expected to enter the U.S. this year to "30,000 individuals, or maybe less than 30,000. It's still a lot," the congressman noted.
Johnson said in February 2015, 2,395 unaccompanied children (UAC) were apprehended at the southern border compared with 4,845 in February 2014.
"My educated guess about March (2015) is that March will be higher, probably to around the 2,600 or 2,700 level," Johnson said.
Johnson said the 2,600-2,700 estimate is well below the 7,176 unaccompanied children who crossed the southern border in March 2014; and he said the number for January 2015 -- 2,121 -- is "actually the lowest monthly number we've had in quite a while."
Cuellar asked Johnson if those numbers include "family units" as well.
"No, that's a different number," Johnson said.
"Right, which means that you got unaccompanied kids and then the kids that come in with family units, that's another number. Can you give us roughly what are the (family) numbers for F.Y. '15?
"When we talk about family units, we're talking about individuals in family units," Johnson explained. "For January, it was a total of 1,622. January 2014 was 22,286. February 2015 it was 2,043. February 2014 was 3,281.
"And then the numbers last year -- like the numbers for the unaccompanied kids -- reached their peaks in the months of May and June. The high was 16,330 in June 2014. The high for the unaccompanied kids was June 2014, that was 10,620."
"It's still thousands of kids and family units are still coming in," Cuellar noted.
Earlier in the hearing, Johnson said, "This is the time of year" that illegal aliens -- both children and family units --- "if they're going to creep up, they're going to creep up right now."
President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security is $41.2 billion, around $1.7 billion more than last year. That includes $3.3 billion to deter illegal entry into the United States, with full funding for the 34,040 detention beds, as required by law.
Johnson testified Thursday before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.