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Two of America’s top officials trying to hold the line along America’s southern border on Wednesday painted a dismal picture of a rapidly deteriorating system being overwhelmed by unprecedented illegal immigration from Central America to the United States.
“Our apprehension numbers are off the charts,” Carla Provost, chief of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, said Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration titled “At the Breaking Point: The Humanitarian and Security Crisis at our Southern Border.”
“We cannot address this crisis by shifting more resources. It’s like holding a bucket under a faucet. It doesn’t matter how many buckets we have if we can’t turn off the flow,” she said, according to The Washington Post.
She revealed that in April, the Border Patrol detained 109,144 migrants along the Southern Border, an increase from March, which also topped 100,000, and was the highest monthly total since 2007.
“My greatest concern is that we will no longer be able to deliver consequences and we will lose control of the border,” Provost said.
During the hearing, Nathalie Asher, acting executive director of enforcement and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, painted a bleak picture of what happens after immigrants enter the U.S. illegally.
“We continue to face a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” she said, noting that monthly migrant crossings into the U.S. rose from 60,000 during the first three months of the federal fiscal year that began in October to 103,000 in March.
“This dramatic increase of arrests by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has placed a strain on our entire immigration system, stretched resources thin across the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and has ICE balancing its public safety mission in the interior of the United States with the influx of aliens at the border,” Asher told the panel in her prepared statement.
Asher said the numbers of unaccompanied children are up 45 percent and family units are up 218 percent.
“They have received the message loud and clear: Bring a child, you will be released. From interviews that we have done with the families we are apprehending, they are hearing that message loud and clear. They are hearing that from the smugglers, they are hearing that from the media down in the Northern Triangle,” Provost said, referring to the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Provost said that migrants now include “fraudulent” families in which adults claim children who are not theirs are their sons or daughters, The Washington Times reported.
Guatemala and Honduras have been identified as the two countries that send the most migrant north.
“Guatemala and Honduras have seen over 1 percent of their total population migrate to the U.S. in the first seven months of this fiscal year,” acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a speech Tuesday, The Washington Post reported. “One department of Guatemala, Huehuetenango, has seen almost 35,000 of its residents — close to 3 percent of the population — migrate to the U.S. in that time frame.”
Asher said the flood of illegal immigrants has resulted in thousand being released without officials ever being able to track them down, according to The Post.
She said that since December, 168,000 illegal immigrants were released with instructions to report to an immigration court. Few did. A pilot program to expedite hearings resulted in 87.5 percent of illegal immigrants failing to appear.
In her prepared statement, Asher tried to summarize the dire nature of the situation for the senators.
“Between the continuing influx of family units, the growing immigration court backlog of almost 900,000 cases, and the fact that there are often no consequences for those who fail to depart as ordered, very few members of family units will be removed; the push and pull factors that incentivize families to make the dangerous journey to this country must be addressed,” she said.
“As a result of these issues, of the family units from Central America who were apprehended at the southern border in FY 2017, more than 98 percent remain in the country today,” she said, later adding that “most members of this population remain non-detained with little or no oversight.”
She told senators that “74 percent of individuals detained by ICE are subject to mandatory detention by statute, pose a danger to the community, or present a risk of flight that cannot be effectively mitigated by (Alternatives to Detention). Ultimately, without the necessary authority to enable ICE to detain family units for the duration of their immigration proceedings, without the proper ability to hold those accountable who fail to comply with ATD or release conditions, and without sufficient resources to apprehend those who abscond, this situation will result in virtual impunity for those who violate our immigration laws. In such circumstances, the flow of aliens into the United States, many of whom enter illegally, will continue, if not increase.
“Our nation continues to experience an unprecedented illegal immigration crisis on our southern border resulting from outdated requirements and court decisions that prevent the detention of alien minors and family units during the pendency of their removal proceedings, and inhibit the government from effectively removing those who receive final orders from an immigration judge. Legislative changes are needed to ensure we have the necessary authorities to ensure the safe and successful repatriation of persons ordered removed, in addition to ensuring that ICE has adequate resources to continue to execute its mission. Without the necessary funding and legislative changes, the integrity of our immigration system will continue to be undermined.”