Following the death of a second migrant child in federal immigration custody in the past month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says systems for dealing with border security and migrants are being pushed to the “breaking point.”
“Our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a written statement. “Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north. This crisis is exacerbated by the increase in persons who are entering our custody suffering from severe respiratory illnesses or exhibit some other illness upon apprehension.”
“Given the remote locations of their illegal crossing and the lack of resources,” the secretary explained, “it is even more difficult for our personnel to be first responders.”
Border Patrol agents apprehended 139,817 migrants in the past two months, she explained. This compares to 74,946 during the same period the year before. Of those apprehended, 68,510 were family units and 13,981 unaccompanied minors. The secretary said the problem has only “become starker in December.”
Nielsen blamed the massive increase in migrant crossings, particularly family units and unaccompanied minors, on several “draw factors.” Among those, she listed:
- an immigration system that rewards parents for sending their children across the border alone,
- a system that prevents parents who bring their children on a dangerous and illegal journey from facing consequences for their actions,
- an asylum process that is not able to quickly help those who qualify for asylum,
- a system that encourages fraudulent claims, and a system that encourages bad actors to coach aliens into making frivolous claims.
“The bottom line is that 9 out 10 asylum claims are rejected by a federal immigration judge,” Secretary Nielsen stated.
The DHS secretary announced some additional precautions that will be taken moving forward to make sure holding facilities and detention centers are as safe and healthy as possible:
At my direction, all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening. Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension – whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one.
I have also spoken with our partners in Mexico to ask that they begin to investigate the causes of these illnesses on their side of the border and to provide medical assistance in shelters as needed.
I will be travelling to the border later this week to see first-hand the medical screenings and conditions at Border Patrol stations.
Nielsen said that additional Border Patrol agents trained in emergency management will be assigned to remote areas along the border. Currently, there are 1,500 medically trained Border Patrol agents and CBP officers along the border.
“As a result of bad judicial rulings from activist judges and inaction by Congress, we are seeing a flood of family units and unaccompanied alien children,” Nielsen concluded. “The unprecedented number of families and unaccompanied children at the border must not be ignored. I once again ask – beg – parents to not place their children at risk by taking a dangerous journey north. Vulnerable populations – including family units and unaccompanied alien children should seek asylum at the first possible opportunity, including Mexico.”
“To those in Congress who continue to refuse to take action to address the loopholes that cause a flood of humanity to travel north and place children at risk, I once again call on you to do your job, protect vulnerable populations, secure our borders, and provide the men and women of DHS the authorities and resources we need to address this crisis,” the secretary said.