Bor­der Pa­trol marks worst Novem­ber from fam­i­lies

De­mands for U.S. en­try strain sys­tem

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Bor­der Pa­trol nabbed more than 15,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants trav­el­ing as fam­i­lies on the south­west bor­der in Novem­ber — a mas­sive in­crease that marks the worst Novem­ber on record and the sec­ond worst over­all, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics re­leased Thurs­day.

The num­ber of chil­dren trav­el­ing with­out par­ents also ticked up, top­ping 7,000 for the month, but it’s the surge of fam­i­lies that is strain­ing the Bor­der Pa­trol and test­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s resolve.

Com­bined, the chil­dren and fam­i­lies flee­ing Cen­tral Amer­ica for the U.S. have re­shaped the chal­lenges of the il­le­gal mi­gra­tion prob­lem, send­ing over­all il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion num­bers back to lev­els not seen in years. The 47,214 il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings re­ported in Novem­ber is 44 per­cent higher than in 2015 and marks the worst Novem­ber in years.

The fam­i­lies and chil­dren are try­ing new meth­ods, in­clud­ing show­ing up and de­mand­ing en­try to the U.S. Of­fi­cers at the le­gal ports of en­try re­ported a 226 per­cent spike in chil­dren they en­coun­tered in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber, com­pared with the same two months in 2015.

Obama of­fi­cials blame con­di­tions in Cen­tral Amer­ica, say­ing poverty and vi­o­lence in El Sal­vador, Hon­duras and Gu­atemala are forc­ing peo­ple to make the trip north.

But the Bor­der Pa­trol’s chief told Congress that U.S. pol­icy is invit­ing the surge be­cause mi­grants, coached by the smug­glers they are pay­ing, have learned to game the sys­tem.

The worst month for chil­dren and fam­i­lies was June 2014, the peak of the pre­vi­ous surge. But mi­gra­tion is cycli­cal, and the fact that this year had the worst Novem­ber on record sug­gests that fis­cal year 2017, which be­gan in Oc­to­ber, is poised to set more records for fam­i­lies.

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the agency that over­sees the bor­der, said the surge goes be­yond Cen­tral Amer­i­cans.

Haitians dis­placed by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, who have been liv­ing in Brazil for years, also have been mak­ing their way north. Au­thor­i­ties are see­ing an in­crease in the num­ber of Cubans, too, the agency said.

“CBP con­tin­ues to main­tain a strong se­cu­rity pos­ture through back­ground checks of all in­di­vid­u­als en­coun­tered and en­sures that each per­son is pro­cessed in ac­cor­dance with U.S. im­mi­gra­tion laws and DHS pol­icy,” the agency said.

CBP has opened more pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties to han­dle the work­loads and has taken 150 agents from else­where and sent them to Texas, which is han­dling most of the surge.

Agents who should be on the front lines are in­stead as­signed to baby-sit­ting du­ties, Bor­der Pa­trol Chief Mark Mor­gan told Congress last month, re­count­ing a con­ver­sa­tion he had with se­nior of­fi­cers in Texas.

“The su­per­vi­sor that was in charge said, ‘You know, Chief, we’re go­ing to do what­ever this coun­try asks us to do. But I never thought in my 20 years that I would be as part of the pro­cure­ment or­der­ing baby pow­der and baby wipes,’ ” Mr. Mor­gan said. “Agents, one of their jobs dur­ing the day is to ac­tu­ally make sure that the food, the bur­ri­tos that were pro­vided, are be­ing warmed prop­erly.”

He said the chil­dren and fam­i­lies are be­ing used as a dis­trac­tion, keep­ing agents oc­cu­pied while drugs are smug­gled in else­where.

The Bor­der Pa­trol is sup­posed to quickly process the chil­dren and fam­i­lies and send them on to other agen­cies. The chil­dren go to so­cial work­ers, while the fam­i­lies are to be turned over to U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, the agency that han­dles de­por­ta­tions.

ICE says its pol­icy is also to quickly process the fam­i­lies and re­lease those with­out se­cu­rity is­sues, but the fam­i­lies of­ten refuse to show up for de­por­ta­tion hear­ings.

The agency said the best way to make sure peo­ple show up for de­por­ta­tion hear­ings is to hold them in cus­tody. As of last month, ICE had ex­panded the num­ber of beds used to hold mi­grants to 41,000 — far more than the 32,000 it was hold­ing on an av­er­age day in 2015.

That has drawn fire from im­mi­grant rights groups, which say hold­ing fam­i­lies with chil­dren is in­hu­mane.

On Wed­nes­day the United Na­tions joined the cho­rus of com­plaints, is­su­ing a call to na­tions around the globe to stop hold­ing mi­grant chil­dren in de­ten­tion.

“Let us be clear: Im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion is never in the best in­ter­ests of the child,” said the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights. “Even short pe­ri­ods of de­ten­tion have an ad­verse and lon­glast­ing ef­fect on a child’s de­vel­op­ment, on their phys­i­cal and men­tal well-be­ing, and might ag­gra­vate pre­vi­ous trauma ex­pe­ri­enced in the coun­tries of ori­gin or tran­sit.”

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in­sist they pro­vide fam­i­lies with ad­e­quate care but have strug­gled with how to bal­ance the needs of en­force­ment with hu­man­i­tar­ian obli­ga­tions.

Many of the mi­grants have fig­ured out how to game the sys­tem and ex­ploit the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s strug­gles. Nearly one in 10 en­coun­tered at the bor­der now are de­mand­ing asy­lum, us­ing what Mr. Mor­gan called “magic words” to by­pass the usual de­por­ta­tion pro­ce­dure and get re­leased quickly.

They are still sup­posed to be in the de­por­ta­tion process but of­ten don’t bother to show for their hear­ings.

The Bor­der Pa­trol is re­port­ing a mas­sive in­crease in the num­ber of Haitians abus­ing the sys­tem.

Over the past two months, nearly 5,700 Haitians have shown up at ports of en­try, de­mand­ing to be let in de­spite not hav­ing per­mis­sion. That is just shy of the 6,400 for all of the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year and far more than the 334 en­coun­tered in all of 2015.

Many of the Haitians are us­ing the “magic words” for­mula to de­mand en­try, of­fi­cials said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

AN­OTHER BUMP: U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol is be­ing strained as a mas­sive num­ber of fam­i­lies show up with­out per­mis­sion and de­mand en­try.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Work­ers con­tinue rais­ing a taller fence along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, but the lat­est surge of im­mi­grants is us­ing dif­fer­ent tac­tics and de­mand­ing en­try into the coun­try.

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