On the heels of a handful of lawmakers having decried the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for having failed to provide Congress with information on its efforts to address the surge of illegal aliens at the Southwest border and demanded DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to “take immediate action to quell the surge at the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” Johnson responded in a statement, saying, “In October, a total of 46,195 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry on our southwest border, compared with 39,501 in September and 37,048 in August.”
“Within these totals,” Johnson said, “we have seen corresponding increases in the numbers of unaccompanied children and individuals in families apprehended. We’ve also seen increases in the numbers of those who present themselves at ports of entry along the southwest border seeking asylum.”
Previously, House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Immigration and Border Security Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Immigration and The National Interest Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) demanded Johnson “take immediate action to quell the surge at the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws.”
They also request a briefing to learn about what steps DHS is taking to address this pressing issue. To date, the department has been reluctant to timely provide information to the committees of jurisdiction.
In their letter to Johnsson, the lawmakers stated, “Numerous media reports indicate that this surge is a large-scale effort to enter the United States before this year’s presidential election. The onslaught of illegal immigration reflects continued efforts by aliens from Central America—El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala—to overwhelm our limited resources at the border, which inevitably results in the release of tens of thousands of removable aliens within the United States. In addition, thousands of Haitians and Africans are amassing in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali for the purpose of presenting themselves to Customs and Border Protection officers asserting dubious claims of asylum, which will practically guarantee their entry. This group of ‘Other Than Mexicans’ at the Southwest border comprises 70-75 percent of all border crossings.”
This group also includes large numbers of “Special Interest Aliens,” individuals from Muslim countries where radical Islamist jihadists are entrenched.
“The numbers are staggering,” the lawmakers stated in their letter to Johnson. They noted that, “In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the Border Patrol apprehended 408,870 illegal aliens at the southern border, 23 percent more than the preceding fiscal year. Of those apprehended, more than 77,000 were members of so-called ‘family units,’ which represents an increase of 95 percent over FY 2015 figures, and nearly 60,000 were unaccompanied alien minors, which reflects a 49 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. On October 31, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that the daily referrals of unaccompanied illegal alien minors averaged 262 over the last week and approximately 237 in October. By comparison, referrals averaged 148 per day in October of FY 2014, the year of the first surge, and 60 per day in October of FY 2015. As of October 27, 2016, the number of minors in [the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)] care is approximately 10,700.”
In his response, Johnson stated, “I have told our border security and immigration enforcement personnel that we must keep pace with this increase. As a result, there are currently about 41,000 individuals in our immigration detention facilities — typically, the number in immigration detention fluctuates between 31,000 and 34,000 – and I have authorized U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to acquire additional detention space for single adults so that those apprehended at the border can be returned to their home countries as soon as possible. We have also engaged with a number of countries to repatriate their citizens more quickly, and they have agreed to do so.”
“Our borders cannot be open to illegal migration,” Johnson said, noting, “We must, therefore, enforce the immigration laws consistent with our priorities. Those priorities are public safety and border security. Specifically, we prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are convicted of serious crimes and those apprehended at the border attempting to enter the country illegally. Recently, I have reiterated to our Enforcement and Removal personnel that they must continue to pursue these enforcement activities.”
Johnson said, “Those who attempt to enter our country without authorization should know that, consistent with our laws and our values, we must and we will send you back.”
In conclusion, Johnson said, “Once again, I encourage migrants and their families to pursue the various safe and legal paths available for those in need of humanitarian protection in the United States. Earlier this year, the government of Costa Rica announced its agreement to enter into a protection transfer arrangement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration to help address the Central American migration challenge. We’ve also established an in-country referral program in countries of origin in Central America. This will enable vulnerable residents in the region to be considered for refugee protection in the United States after being screened and interviewed by DHS officers. We have also announced expansion of the categories of individuals eligible for participation in our Central American Minors program when accompanied by a qualified child. We encourage use of these programs.”
For more information, see the DHS Fact Sheet.