U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials report that agents and officers are referring an average of 55 migrants per day to hospitals. Over the past four years, this resulted in a taxpayer cost of $98 million.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings told reporters in Washington, D.C. Tuesday that Border Patrol agents are facing both national security and a humanitarian crises. The challenges have been brought on by the massive numbers of family units and unaccompanied minors.
“We are committed to addressing these humanitarian needs but the current situation is not sustainable,” Hastings said regarding Border Patrol agents being pulled off the national security mission to assist migrants with medical needs. “The increased flow (of migrants) combined with the stress of the journey, the crowded conveyances, and flu season has resulted in significant increases in the medical referrals for Border Patrol.”
“Currently, the Border Patrol is sending an average of 55 people per day for medical care,” the operations chief explained. “During December, this was as high as 63.”
He said that if the trend continues, Border Patrol agents will refer 31,000 people for medical treatment this year. This is up from 12,000 in 2018 — an increase of 158 percent.
Hastings explained the impact on Border Patrol operations for these medical referrals.
“Since December 22, 2018, U.S. Border Patrol agents have spent over 57,000 hours at a hospital or medical facility,” he reported. “This equates to just under 5,700 shifts of hospital watch during these 72 days at a cost of $2.2 million in Border Patrol salaries.”
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told the reporters that since December, CBP interviewed 27,000 juveniles in the medical screening process. Certified medical practitioners have screened an additional 12,000, he stated.
The commissioner explained that the massive increase in migrant families and unaccompanied minors, particularly in the El Paso Sector, caused facilities to reach or exceed capacity several times during the first quarter. He said this impacts “both the efficiency of migrant processing and the quality of our care that we are able to provide the detained migrants.”
McAleenan said his agency is responding by creating a temporary central migrant processing center in the El Paso Sector in order to “protect the health and safety of the families and children in custody while streamlining operations and reducing the time we are holding families and children.”
“While our enhanced medical efforts and the creation of new facilities will assist with managing the increased flows,” the commissioner stated, “and while we’ll continue to do all that we can to address these increases in traffic safely and humanely, the fact is that these solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable.”
The commissioner called on Congress to act on fixing the laws that are drawing these migrants to the border and to provide the necessary funding to effectively secure the border.
“Remote locations of the United States border are not safe places to cross and they are not places to seek medical care,” he concluded. “The system is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point.”
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face