Border Patrol Union President: 'No one is afraid of breaking the law'
The presidents of the unions representing Border Patrol agents and Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents will argue that current government policies have led to the massive influx of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors and family units at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.
According to written testimony for the committee hearing, obtained exclusively by Breitbart News, Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, and Chris Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, will lay out what they see are the factors contributing to the unprecedented surge in illegal migration by unaccompanied children.
Judd, in his written testimony, points to “catch and release,” the decrease in Border Patrol manpower due to sequestration, and cartels as the three primary culprits leading to the surge in illegal immigration.
“The result is no one is afraid of breaking the law,” Judd writes in his testimony of catch and release. “Currently, my understanding is about 90 percent of the unaccompanied minors are being placed with either a family member or a close family friend, many of whom are in this country illegally themselves. Although unaccompanied minors are still subject to deportation through the removal process, we have to be honest with ourselves. Most will never honor the Notice to Appear in court and face deportation. They simply fail to appear and blend into the community.”
Crane points to conversations about amnesty as a draw factor, luring unaccompanied minors to the United States.
The ICE union president notes that he and law enforcement organizations around the country warned about such a potential crisis 13 months ago when the Senate was debating its immigration legislation.
“As we have stated previously, desperate people in impoverished countries don’t read our laws or our policies, and pay no heed to arbitrary cut-off dates that may require entry by a specific date for inclusion,” Cranes testimony reads. “Continued talk in the United States of amnesty and legalization without appropriate law enforcement safeguards first put in place, will continue to draw millions like a magnet to our southern border.”
“The most humane thing that we can do as Americans is to deter crises like this one through consistent enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” he adds.
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained crossing into the United States through the southwest border, the vast majority of which have been from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The influx represents a 99 percent increase over last year.
Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the crisis, featuring Crane, Judd, Tom Homan ICE’s Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations, Ronald Vitiello Deputy Chief of Border Patrol, and Most Reverand Mark J. Seitz, the Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas.
Read Judd’s complete written testimony:
Testimony of Brandon Judd
On behalf of the National Border Patrol Council
In front of United States House Judiciary Committee June 25, 2014
Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, members of the Committee, on behalf of the 16,500 rank and file Border Patrol Agents whom I represent, I would like to thank you for having this hearing.
My name is Brandon Judd and I am the President of the National Border Patrol Council. I have been a Border Patrol Agent for nearly 17 years, most of which were spent in the Tucson, Arizona and El Centro, California sectors.
During my years in the Border Patrol, I’ve seen how policy can directly affect border security.
For the Agents on the border, the latest surge in unaccompanied minors is not a surprise. I know our natural inclination is to look for a single smoking gun and apportion blame accordingly. However, this crisis is the culmination of a variety of factors including:
? First - the Catch and Release program. This program is bad policy and encourages people from countries other than Mexico to enter the United States illegally. Under this policy, and in most cases, individuals entering the U.S. illegally know they will be released if apprehended. The result is no one is afraid of breaking the law. Currently, my understanding is about 90 percent of the unaccompanied minors are being placed with either a family member or a close family friend; many of whom are in this country illegally themselves. Although unaccompanied minors are still subject to deportation through the removal process, we have to be honest with ourselves. Most will never honor the Notice to Appear in court and face deportation. They simply fail to appear and blend into the community.
? Second - under sequestration Border Patrol manpower was decreased by five percent. The real life impact of this decrease means that we effectively lost about 1,100 Agents. To put this loss in perspective, the cities of El Paso and Tucson only have about 1,100 sworn officers each in their respective departments. This manpower decrease did not go unnoticed and for those trying to enter the country illegally – it was a good time to try.
? Third - organized crime’s ability to quickly adapt to changes in manpower and policies affecting the borders of the United States. Our borders are constantly under attack by multi-national drug cartels and this latest surge in unaccompanied minors is just another example. These cartels have a well-developed intelligence network and are very skilled at exploiting our shortages in manpower. It is no coincidence that many of the same cartels responsible for the violence in Central America are also making hundreds of millions of dollars smuggling unaccompanied children (UAC) across the border. In fact, the current surge has made all aspects of smuggling easier by tying up Border Patrol Agents with large groups of UACs. If efficiency and safety were the goal, it would make more sense for the cartels to cross UACs into the US through ports of entry by way of the Customs Service. That way, they can manage uncertainties better and avoid risking harsh terrains and inhospitable weather while still gaining entry to the United States. Instead, the cartels purposely cross between ports of entry to tie up Border Patrol manpower, creating holes in our enforcement and facilitating their other lines of business, such as drug smuggling and the smuggling of known criminals into the US. Make no mistake this is big business for the cartels. It has been reported that nearly 40 percent of our manpower is being pulled from the field to perform duties such as processing and caring for those in our custody until they are either released or turned over to the Enforcement and Removal Office (ERO), a component of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). This decrease has stressed our workforce to the breaking point and makes it nearly impossible to effectively patrol the border and fight against organized crime.
The question I know many of you are asking is what we need to do to address this crisis and I think the following actions would improve our nation’s response:
? End our Catch and Release policy. We need to detain unaccompanied minors until their cases are properly adjudicated. As long as we continue to release unaccompanied minors to family and friends, this problem will not only continue but will grow exponentially. Organized crime will continue to exploit our weaknesses and take advantage of the policy. We know from experience that the chance of minors being deported after they’ve failed to appear in court is small, once they’ve been released into the community. We need to follow through enforcing the laws of this nation, so that breaking the law carries consequences.
? Do not grant special status. This is a corollary to the catch and release program. We need to be crystal clear that unaccompanied minors and their families will not be rewarded for breaking the law through special or legal status after being arrested. We need to acknowledge that our immigration policies over the last 30 years have been at best inconsistent. If we are to stop this latest crisis with unaccompanied minors, we have to change the cost-benefit analysis for those who exploit holes in border security.
? Address the manpower shortfall immediately. Congressman Chaffetz has introduced legislation called the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act that would restore manpower on the border while also saving the American taxpayer millions of dollars a year. This legislation is groundbreaking and will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency while also saving money. Several Members on this Committee are already cosponsors and I want to thank you for your support. The Senate Homeland Security Committee is marking up the Senate companion of the Chaffetz bill today. We look forward to working with Chairman Issa on the Oversight Committee and hope to move this legislation before the August recess. Timing is critical as were looking at further cuts in the near future.
? Strengthen interior enforcement. We have already discussed how a lack of consequences for breaking the law in the form of the Catch and Release program has encouraged a new flood of illegal immigration. By the same token, a lack of consequences for those who successfully enter our country without being detected is also encouraging illegal immigration. We already have laws on the books that, if enforced, will stem the flow. However, these laws only work as a deterrent if they are consistently enforced.
This is a difficult issue with no single solution, but I believe the fix is well within our reach. The crisis is real and our Agents are fully aware of the hardship many of the children have endured in search of a better life or to be with their family. Many Agents try to contribute in small ways: some spend their own money to buy toys and diapers, others spend time with the minors in what is undoubtedly a very confusing environment for them. In the end, the current crisis needs to be addressed through consistent enforcement of the laws we already have, and through adequate manpower at the border. We must change the current cost-benefit analysis for illegal immigration so the rewards and incentives are less appealing.
Again, I want to thank the Committee for the opportunity to testify and if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.
Read Crane’s complete written testimony:
Statement by Chris Crane, President,
National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118 of the
American Federation of Government Employees
Before the Committee on the Judiciary
June 25, 2014
Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Conyers, and distinguished members of this Committee.
First and foremost, I would ask that members of Congress join me in extending a thank you to the men and women of the United States Border Patrol and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for their humanitarian efforts on our southern border. I understand that conditions in some areas are not at the standards we would all like to see, especially as it pertains to the children, but our officers are doing the best they can with the resources they’ve been provided. Many of our officers frequently go above and beyond, taking money out of their own pockets to buy diapers, baby formula and food for these children. The agents and officers of the Border Patrol and ICE are too often criticized, even demonized; but rarely recognized as the dedicated public servants they truly are. Their actions during this humanitarian crisis are commendable.
Before Congress can begin discussing changes to U.S. immigration law related to legalization or “amnesty” on any scale, it must first ensure that the appropriate enforcement safeguards are in place. It is to be a costly lesson in terms of the human toll, as well as the financial expense, but it is the lesson nonetheless that Congress, and indeed all of America must take away from the humanitarian crisis taking place on our southern border.
Reports from ICE officers and agents on the ground in the Rio Grande Valley serve to corroborate leaked Border Patrol intelligence reports indicating that the majority of individuals illegally entering the United States are motivated more by rumors of amnesty, than the situation in their respective countries. Many news reporters have confirmed this information by way of their own interviews.
It is truly surreal that I testify before the committee today, as it is exactly four years to the day, on June 25, 2010, that the National ICE Council and its constituent Locals issued a unanimous vote of no confidence in ICE leadership reporting that the agency had abandoned its core mission of enforcing U.S. immigration law and providing for public safety, as it instead focused on enforcement reduction through amnesty related changes to U.S. immigration policy and law. Over the last four years, our union has repeatedly advised Congress and America that the Administration’s immigration policies are failing in the field.
The Secretary of DHS, the Director of ICE, as well as Tom Homan who is here to testify today, have all been told during town hall meetings by ICE officers and agents in the field that the Administration’s enforcement policies are failing. If the Administration continues with its current policies, it can expect the current crisis to further escalate, and crises in other areas to potentially emerge. As we have stated previously, desperate people in impoverished countries don’t read our laws or our policies, and pay no heed to arbitrary cut-off dates that may require entry by a
specific date for inclusion. Continued talk in the United States of amnesty and legalization without appropriate law enforcement safeguards first put in place, will continue to draw millions like a magnet to our southern border. The most humane thing that we can do as Americans is to deter crises like this one through consistent enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.
With regard to the current crisis, thirteen months ago in May of 2013, our union sent a letter to every member of the United States Senate. The same letter was issued as a press release for all lawmakers and members of the public to review. One hundred and forty sheriffs nationwide and five law enforcement organizations signed the letter. Collectively we warned America that “Thousands of unaccompanied children, runaways and families now attempt to illegally enter the United States in hopes of receiving legalization." Stressing the dangers of the situation on the border, as well as the magnitude of the situation, law enforcement also warned in the letter that thousands could be victimized or perish while attempting the dangerous crossing into the United States.
In February of 2014, our union took to television and radio calling the situation on the border a “humanitarian crisis.” Not until this month, June of 2014, did the Administration truly acknowledge the situation, as President Obama finally described the conditions on the border as an “urgent humanitarian crisis.” Much more could have and should have been done sooner to curtail this situation and
safeguard human life. This crisis did not begin last month as some reports indicate.
For over a year, ICE agents, officers and employees in the Rio Grande Valley have been overwhelmed. ICE ERO leadership I believe attempted to assist, but due to the extremely limited resources and manpower available, their efforts had little effect. As a result, ICE officers and agents in the Rio Grande Valley have been working day and night since the early stages of this situation. As problems continue on the border and the severity of the situation increases, however, other ICE ERO offices and facilities throughout the U.S. have been called in to assist and are now also experiencing similar workloads.
As the U.S. Border Patrol has tripled in size since 9/11, and ICE’s immigration division, Enforcement and Removal Operations has become smaller, its seems clear that few understand the critical role ICE ERO plays in border security. It seems clear that few understand that in addition to its own immigration enforcement mission, ICE ERO is also responsible for the detention, transportation and removal of aliens apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, making ICE ERO a critical border security asset. An asset long overlooked and now severely undermanned as it struggles to perform its mission of supporting a Border Patrol that has tripled in size.
By way of vans, buses, charter flights and commercial aircraft, ICE officers are transferring hundreds of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), family units and adult aliens out of the Rio Grande Valley every day of the week to points all across the nation. Without ICE agents and officers performing their critical border security mission every day for the last year, border operations in the Rio Grande Valley would have quickly broken down. In speaking with our officers assigned to ICE Air Operations, ICE’s air transportation arm, air transports have been so heavily used during the crisis that two additional planes have already been leased, and still more could be utilized. Taking up the slack from ICE Air Operations transport planes, 60 to 120 ICE officers from around the nation board commercial aircraft everyday escorting small groups of UACs for placement with the Office of Refugee Resettlement/Division of Child Services (ORR/DCS). ICE officers around the nation are under orders to be packed for overnight travel and ready to respond at any time day or night – and responding they are. Contrary to some reports, ICE officers and agents are taking custody of UACs from the Border Patrol, not ORR, and transporting these UACs to ORR placement locations throughout the nation. From the border areas of the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso and Arizona, to areas on the interior like Chicago, Seattle and Newark; ICE agents and officers are scrambling to process, transport and provide detention space in response to this crisis and support Border Patrol operations.
As in the Border Patrol, this crisis is putting a tremendous strain on ICE ERO and its limited manpower and resources nationwide. ICE has already permanently transferred some officers and agents to the border and temporarily detailed others to supplement the hundreds already working in the Rio Grande Valley. This of course does not include the extensive manpower and resource loses created through the daily demands of this crisis on ICE ERO’s network of detention facilities and transportation assets nationwide. It also does not include, for example, yet another detention center being established in Artesia, NM that also will be manned by ICE officers and agents detailed from other locations.
ICE ERO Fugitive Operations Teams in some areas have been completely shut down with ICE officers reassigned to process and transport UACs and Family units. Officers in other vital ERO criminal enforcement programs such as the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities Program likewise are being pulled daily from their critical public safety missions. There is no doubt that ICE ERO’s many critical missions, to include its criminal enforcement and public safety missions are impacted. Ironically, as ICE ERO and the Border Patrol spend millions of dollars and shift resources from vital programs to process family units and UACs, it is unlikely that a significant number of these illegal entrants will be removed from the United States unless changes are made to current immigration
policy. Without removals it is doubtful that the influx of those illegally entering the U.S. will subside any time soon.
The Administration has reportedly requested $1.4 billion to address the current situation with UACs; it is also reported that OMB anticipates total expenses for the crisis this year to be $2.28 billion. This is because thousands of teenagers, most between the ages of 13 and 17, are flooding across our border and waiting for the Border Patrol to apprehend them. How do we combat this problem? How do we stop individuals and groups who seek out immigration officials so they can turn themselves in? The answer of course is that we aggressively enforce our immigration laws and quickly remove those who enter the country illegally. And in doing so we send a message to the world that these types of tactics will not be successful. In doing so we also dramatically reduce human trafficking, injury, rape and death. As I have stated on many occasions, law enforcement is not a dirty word; law enforcement saves lives. I sincerely hope that the President and Congress will support law enforcement in aggressively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws in order to bring an end to this crisis, and prevent future ones. We must have their support.
In closing, I know that border security is important to every member of Congress. I hope that my testimony today regarding ICE ERO’s mission during
the current border crisis assists Congress in dealing with the problem and better illustrates for members the critical role ICE ERO plays in border security.
I hope that Congress will also consider the future consequences of allowing ERO to continue in its current state; drastically understaffed with morale plummeting to record lows. As officers we have ideas on how to get ERO back on its feet and operating more effectively. We would like to work with Congress and ICE in making that happen. In the meantime, Congressman John Carter and the House Appropriations Committee have recommended funding for a single officer position at ICE ERO, as is currently in place at the U.S. Border Patrol and ICE Homeland Security Investigations. We believe in doing so Congressman Carter and the Committee have taken an important first step in improving the law enforcement effectiveness of ICE ERO.
Thank you and that concludes my testimony.