Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is making preparations for at least 75,000 additional unaccompanied alien minors in its fiscal year 2017 budget request to Congress.
In written testimony prepared for the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Homeland Security, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske explained the agency’s struggle to respond to the influx of unaccompanied minors and family illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.
“During FY 2014, the U.S. Government experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied children (UC) crossing the Southwest border, compared to previous years,” Kerlikowske explained. “The surge created a resource challenge for CBP and other Federal partners responsible for responding to the urgent humanitarian situation.”
Border Patrol apprehended 68,541 unaccompanied minors and 68,445 “families units” illegally crossing the southwest border in FY 2014. In FY 2015 the apprehension numbers dipped to 39,970 unaccompanied minors and 39,838 “family units.”
As Kerlikowske indicated, the first couple months of FY 2016 saw a dramatic increase over the previous fiscal year.
“For FY 2016, through January 31, 2016, USBP has apprehended over 20,000 UC crossing the Southwest border, compared to approximately 10,000 UC apprehensions during the same time period in FY 2015,” he wrote.
Kerlikowske noted that while last month saw a dip, CBP remains on alert for seasonal changes or other increases in the flow.
“Although the numbers have recently declined, UC flows are fluctuating and CBP anticipates seasonal increases throughout FY 2016 and into FY 2017. For FY 2017, CBP requests resources to support a revised baseline of 75,000 UC apprehensions as well as a contingency fund should arrivals exceed prior year levels,” the CBP Commissioner added.
Last year CBP requested baseline funds “for the care and custody of 58,000” unaccompanied minors. Of course FY 2015 did not see that many unaccompanied minors detained illegally entering the U.S.
According to Kerlikowske, the increase in funding for unaccompanied minors “will allow CBP personnel to continue focusing on border strategies and provide for the health and safety of higher volumes of UC crossing the Southwest border.”
“Working closely with our DHS and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) partners, CBP continues to ensure the safe detection, care, and transfer of this unique and vulnerable population in accordance with the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (Pub. L. No. 110-457) and other legal obligations,” he added.