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U.S. Border at ‘Breaking Point’ Says Border Protection Chief

Migrants Crossing Ramon EspinosaAP
Ramon Espinosa/AP
NEIL MUNRO

Americans’ border security is collapsing this week, says Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

“Two weeks ago, I briefed the media and testified in Congress that our immigration system was at the breaking point,” McAleenan said at press conference in El Paso, Texas.  

“That breaking point has arrived this week at our border,” he said, adding:

We are on pace for over 100,000 apprehensions and encounters with migrants in March, with 90 percent of those — 90,000 people — [being unable] to be repatriated expeditiously and instead are almost guaranteed to be released and to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, regardless of the merits of their immigration or asylum claim.

The March inflow will include roughly 15,000 parents and 40,000 children in “family units” who will ask for asylum — and then will be released — plus roughly 35,000 single adults who will try to evade border officers, he said. 

McAleenan pinned the blame on Congress and the judges who have jointly cut legal holes in the border fences by allowing migrants to stream into U.S. cities if they merely ask for asylum:

The increase in family units is a direct response to the vulnerabilities in our legal frameworks where migrants and smugglers know that they will be released and be allowed to stay in the U.S. indefinitely pending immigration proceedings that could be many years out. This is due to court orders that undermine the integrity of our immigration system. There is no questioning [about] why this is happening.

“This economic migration … is overwhelming [the smaller] legitimate asylum population,” that is likely to win court cases for asylum, he said.

But McAleenan’s comments are just blame-shifting, said Jessica Vaughan, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Congress has shown it is unwilling to block the flow of migrants, yet officials at the Department of Homeland Security are doing little to shame Congress or to work around it, she said. Officials should be pressuring judges to repair the damage caused by pro-migration announcements, pressuring regulators to fast-track new regulations, rebuking business groups, rejecting media pressure, and forcing agency lawyers to discard pro-migration rules set by former President Barack Obama, she said. 

McAleenan’s “CBP keeps shooting down various [internal] proposals that would untie the hands of government [officials] and are internally vetoing a lot of ideas that might work,” partly because top DHS officials are deferring to the pro-migration preferences of business groups, she said.

For example, McAleenan said the 2008 TVPRA law bars DHS from repatriating youths from Central America. But that law was passed to protect the victims of “severe trafficking,” such as prostitutes under the control of gangs. However, McAleenan’s agency has former President Barack Obama’s policy of defining “severe trafficking” to include the “UAC” youths who are being safely escorted to U.S. border agencies by coyotes working under contracts with the youths’  illegal-immigrant parents.

Agency officials “seem more concerned about their professional image than they are about implementing the tough border security that is needed to protect the country and American communities,” she said.

“They have to fight back, they can’t just throw a white flag and say, ‘Congress must fix this,'” she said. 

McAleenan, for example, did not try to criticize legislators’ or judges’ unwillingness to guard the nation’s borders, even though a televised tide of Central Americans are rushing themselves and their children through the border to take low-wage jobs, school spaces, and government aid from blue-collar Americans.

He did not point out that elite Americans, employers, real estate owners, and government workers all gain as the flood of low-wage workers and government-dependent migrants gratefully work at low wages, bid up rental costs, and take free schooling and other aid from government agencies.

Immigration lawyers and judges also gain from their ability to get paid while awarding American green cards to the grateful migrants.

McAleenan said large groups of migrants are helping the Mexican cartels smuggle drugs and more cheap labor into U.S communities. “They are bringing drugs, they are being adults who are trying to evade capture behind those families as we are bogged down [processing the] large groups.”

But McAleenan did not note that drugs killed roughly 70,000 Americans in 2017, amid elite efforts to hide the problem during Obama’s terms. Wages were also flat during Obama’s term, as he helped elite companies and investors by encouraging the mass migration of cheap workers.

The border inflow dropped sharply in 2017 because of President Donald Trump’s focus on border security. As a result, wages rose by more than three percent during 2018, as Trump’s “Hire American” policy reduced the inflow of illegal and legal cheap labor.

Trump’s wage-boosting policy is strongly opposed by business groups, nearly all Democrats, by many GOP legislators, and is largely ignored by establishment media outlets who are eager to focus on the welfare of the migrants. Throughout 2018, these opponents also blocked Trump’s border security reforms and minimized funding for Trump’s proposed border wall.

 McAleenan described some of the steps which his agency is taking to manage the rising inflow.

“In the absence of immediate correctional action which we are asking and calling for again for today … we’re going to be taking every action in our power to try to manage this crisis,” McAleenan said. 

The crisis is forcing the agency to divert up to 40 percent of officers to provide aid and healthcare to migrants who cross the border, McAleenan said. “Our security posture at the border is negatively impacted,” he added. 

The agency has also moved 750 officers from the formal “ports of entry,” even as Democrats say officers should focus on the ports to prevent the smuggling of drugs in autos and cargo vehicles. The personnel shift ensures “there will be a slowdown in the processing of trade … this is required to help us manage this operational crisis,” he said. 

But, McAleenan warned, “the only way to fundamentally address these flows is for Congress to act.”

“That’s what he and [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen keep saying … as if they are absolved from doing anything [more] with their own authority,” said Vaughan, adding: 

The leadership of the House does not want to do anything and I’ve not convinced the leadership of the Senate wants to do anything. Secondly, what they want to do [is worse] … House Democrats want to allow people to come in and ask for asylum. This [border collapse] is all fine with them, so why would they feel any urgency to act? The only way Democrats would help is if they think they can get something they want, which is a massive amnesty and more restrictions on enforcement and more green cards.

That option was hinted by Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who helped write the disastrous 2013 “Gang of Eight” amnesty for Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer:

Fresco’s reference to “as many problems as we can solve” hints at the Congress’s desire to help business allies by importing more white-collar and blue-collar labor, Vaughan said.

For example, Fresco and business groups are already pushing for legislation — H.R. 1044 and S. 386 — that would offer roughly 100,000 green cards per year to low-wage Indian graduates if they take U.S. jobs from hundreds of thousands of middle class Americans.

Border curbs “are only problems for the cheap labor crowd,” said Vaughan. “To them, the problems are not enough cheap labor,” she said. “For Americans, the problem is not enough enforcement, security, and jobs for Americans,” she said.

But, she added, “there should be a real concern that the administration is willing to give up on all of that in exchange for the ability to enforce the border, which would be a terrible deal.”

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