PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - One year ago, Arizona saw a massive influx of undocumented immigrant families seeking asylum in the U.S.

Now we finally know just how many came here.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 68,000 people crossed into Arizona as family groups in fiscal year 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018 - Sept. 30, 2019). 

Most of them, 51,961 people, came through Border Patrol's Yuma Sector. The rest were apprehended by the Tucson Sector.

[VIDEO: What happened to all those families?]

That total is up from 19,000 in 2018.

Many of them wanted to claim asylum from gang violence in their Central American home countries.

After they were released from custody, ICE would send them here to the Phoenix area where waiting churches would take them in temporarily.

"There was a particular church that received like 600 people in a weekend," said Eddie Chavez Calderon, a campaign organizer for Arizona Jews for Justice.

Groups like his helped organize donations, but Chavez Calderon says nobody really knew how many people were coming in.

[RELATED: Church resources dwindling as migrants continue to be dropped off in Phoenix (Dec. 29, 2018)]

The newly released number doesn't surprise Chavez Calderon.

"It's corresponding with what we saw, 200 people a day," he said. "That goes to show you what has happened, what was happening back then. It really was a humanitarian crisis at that point."

[RELATED: Churches cry for help after ICE drops off more migrants]

"These are families, these moms, these dads with these babies, you look at them, and they're so sick, they're so hungry," he continued.

Chavez Calderon says the number of drop-offs in the Valley has decreased recently. Groups are still taken to churches at a rate of about 20 people every three days.

He says current policies are keeping most of the migrant families in Mexico.

Volunteers are now shifting their focus, sending supplies and donations there.

"They become homeless. They can't eat," Chavez Calderon said. "The structures put in place there to help them out are overwhelmed."

[RELATED: Dozens of migrants dropped off at Phoenix bus station]

Adding up all border crossings, including unaccompanied children, solo adults, and family units, more than 850,000 thousand people were apprehended along the southern border in FY2019.

That's the highest number since 2007, but still lower than all the years between the early 1980s through the mid-2000s.


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