Customs and Border Protection sounded yet another alarm about overstretched resources while parties in Congress still appear far away from agreeing on solutions to the humanitarian border crisis and President Trump threatens tariffs on Mexico.
“We are experiencing a system-wide emergency that is severely impacting our workforce, facilities and resources,” Acting CBP Commissioner John P. Sanders said Wednesday upon the revelation that fiscal-year-to-date southern border apprehensions are up 99 percent from the previous year at this point,
The Border Patrol reported 132,887 apprehensions on the southern border during May; just five years ago the May apprehension total was 60,683. CBP reported spikes across the board, with increases both at ports of entry and between, and spanning all classifications of migrants including unaccompanied children and family units — those two groups accounted for 72 percent of May southern border apprehensions.
The migrants mostly originate — 91 percent — from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, CBP said. They’re also increasingly traveling in groups of more than 100 people — while 13 large groups were encountered by CBP in fiscal year 2018, so far this fiscal year there have been more than 180.
CBP stressed that the necessary reallocation of the workforce to deal with the border surge — about 5 percent of the agency’s officers and agents have been moved to the southern border for migrant-processing assistance, away from their port-of-entry posts — “comes with consequences.”
“Pedestrian, passenger vehicle, and commercial trucks trying to cross the border are experiencing uncharacteristically long delays,” CBP said in a Wednesday statement. “Some ports of entry have been forced to close some travel lanes and curtail some weekend cargo processing hours.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called the new statistics “yet another sign that the Trump administration’s border security and immigration policies are abject failures.”
“We have a full-blown humanitarian crisis, which is being exacerbated by the administration’s inhumane treatment of migrants in custody,” Thompson added.
The chairman said Democrats stand “ready and willing to help and increase humanitarian assistance” but “until the administration stops spending more time talking about the crisis than putting forward workable solutions, they are not acting in good faith.”
Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), while arguing on the House floor this week against the latest iteration of the DREAM Act that passed the lower chamber 237-187, declared that “we are on track to break nearly every record in recent history” and noted that a recently apprehended group of 1,036 migrants couldn’t fit in the House chamber “and we certainly can’t fit them in a single Border Patrol station.”
“Last month, I asked this House to provide the $4.5 billion that DHS requested to address this humanitarian and security crisis. Despite urgent pleas for additional funds from frontline personnel responsible for caring for unaccompanied children, Democrats refused to add funds to the supplemental,” Rogers said, saying Dems “would rather reward illegal immigrants than secure our border, enforce our laws, and fix this crisis.”
Democrats have opposed border funding that includes wall construction, and stipulated wall-free funding for DHS in the House Appropriations Committee budget package unveiled this week.
Trump plans to slap a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports beginning Monday in an attempt to coerce Mexican authorities into doing more to stop Central American migrants from claiming asylum at the U.S. border or trying to cross illegally.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard met Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the issue, but no agreement was reached. “We’ll see what happens. But something pretty dramatic could happen,” Trump told reporters while visiting Ireland. “We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too. And I’m very happy with it.”
A group of Senate Republicans, arguing that the tariffs will financially wound America, have vowed that they would join Democrats to block the president’s action.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed Wednesday on Fox News Radio “a lack of enthusiasm amongst Senate Republicans for what would amount to a tax increase, frankly, on working-class people.”
“And it drives up the cost of goods that you would be purchasing at Walmart and other places,” McConnell said. “So I’m hoping this can be avoided. There’s a Mexican delegation in town as you and I are speaking trying to see if they can reach some agreement to do a better job of keeping folks — mostly these people who are coming up from Central America, not from Mexico.”
“If the Mexicans could do a better job of preventing them from crossing the border in the southern part of Mexico and also try to enhance their effort on the border, maybe all of this can be averted,” he added.
“First of all, let’s see what they are presenting forth, and if they do send it forth. The [House] Republican leader said they’re going to stick with the president on this; I don’t know how many of his members go along with that,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday. “I think the Senate probably has the votes to override but we are not talking about override, we haven’t seen anything yet except a tweet, a tweet and then this statement of authority under which they would do this, but we haven’t seen anything that we would be overruling and then going to the next step.”
“But I think that this is dangerous territory,” Pelosi added. “This is not a way to treat a friend, it is not a way to deal with immigration, it’s not a way to deal — meet the humanitarian needs at the border.”