Il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings at high­est num­ber in years

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son on Thurs­day said agents are see­ing a re­newed surge of peo­ple at­tempt­ing to sneak into the U.S. through the south­west­ern bor­der over the past few months, with more than 46,000 caught in Oc­to­ber alone.

It’s the high­est tally since the surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren in the sum­mer of 2014.

The num­bers were re­leased two days af­ter the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that cul­mi­nated a cam­paign in which the por­ous con­di­tion of the south­west bor­der was a heated topic.

Mr. John­son said he is scram­bling re­sources to try to con­tain the sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing putting more il­le­gal im­mi­grants into de­ten­tion and urg­ing other coun­tries to ex­pe­dite the process of tak­ing back their cit­i­zens.

“Our bor­ders can­not be open to il­le­gal mi­gra­tion. We must, there­fore, en­force the im­mi­gra­tion laws con­sis­tent with our pri­or­i­ties,” Mr. John­son said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the num­bers.

Repub­li­cans say the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­vited the surge through its le­nient poli­cies.

In a let­ter last week to Mr. John­son, the House and Se­nate chair­men who over­see im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy said it ap­peared that il­le­gal im­mi­grants were try­ing to get into the U.S. ahead of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“The num­bers are stag­ger­ing,” the Repub­li­can law­mak­ers said.

Jes­sica Vaughan, pol­icy stud­ies di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, said Mr. John­son is ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lem only af­ter its ex­po­sure by whistle­blow­ers at U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion. She said the sec­re­tary’s dec­la­ra­tion that the bor­der isn’t open to il­le­gal im­mi­grants “is thor­oughly in­sin­cere and mean­ing­less.”

“If he wanted to put a stop to it, he could, but he has made it ob­vi­ous that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is not in­ter­ested in do­ing so, only in putting on a show of en­force­ment,” she said. “His ro­botic rep­e­ti­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties make it clear that the pol­icy is for only the most egre­gious ‘worst of the worst’ crim­i­nal aliens to be re­moved, and no ef­fort will be made to pre­vent other new ar­rivals from tak­ing their place.”

Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump ran his cam­paign on prom­ises of crack­ing down on il­le­gal im­mi­grants and on beef­ing up bor­der se­cu­rity. He re­it­er­ated that bor­der se­cu­rity pledge on Thurs­day as he met with con­gres­sional lead­ers on Capi­tol Hill, say­ing it was a top pri­or­ity for his early days in of­fice.

Rose­mary Jenks, gov­ern­ment re­la­tions di­rec­tor at Num­ber­sUSA, which lob­bies for stricter im­mi­gra­tion con­trols, said Mr. Trump can end the surge by chang­ing the tone from the top of gov­ern­ment.

“There has to be a very clear public state­ment from the White House, Jan. 20 or Jan. 21, say­ing from this day for­ward we in­tend to se­cure our bor­ders and en­force our im­mi­gra­tion laws,” she said. “I think that alone will make a huge dif­fer­ence at the bor­der. I think the num­bers will al­most im­me­di­ately start to slow down.”

She said the mes­sage needs to in­clude a warn­ing that the U.S. will no longer al­low mi­grants to show up at the bor­der and de­mand asy­lum.

Cal­i­for­nia ports of en­try are be­ing over­whelmed by Haitians who fled their coun­try for South Amer­ica in 2010 and are now mak­ing their way to the U.S. to take ad­van­tage of lax im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. They pay thou­sands of dol­lars to be smug­gled to the bor­der, of­ten with the co­op­er­a­tion of Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties, and then queue up to en­ter and claim asy­lum.

Mr. John­son ac­knowl­edged the spike in asy­lum-seek­ers but didn’t list any steps he has taken to com­bat the prob­lem.

He said he has in­creased de­ten­tion ca­pac­ity to hold adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants trav­el­ing alone. Au­thor­i­ties are de­tain­ing 41,000 peo­ple, up from the daily av­er­age of the low 30,000s.

But that will not do much to solve the surge of chil­dren and fam­i­lies, who make up a large part of the in­creased flow, and whom the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has strug­gled to con­tain. Under the cur­rent in­ter­pre­ta­tion of fed­eral law, the chil­dren are quickly pro­cessed and sent to live with spon­sors in the U.S. — of­ten­times par­ents who are in the coun­try with­out per­mis­sion — while they go through a years­long de­por­ta­tion process.

As for fam­i­lies, dur­ing the ini­tial 2014 surge Mr. John­son boosted bed space and com­mit­ted to hold fam­i­lies un­til they could be de­ported — mak­ing it more likely that they would be kicked out. But af­ter an out­cry by im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates, the depart­ment re­lented and now tries to process and re­lease fam­i­lies as quickly as pos­si­ble.

All told, the 46,195 il­le­gal im­mi­grants nabbed at the bor­der in Oc­to­ber was the high­est num­ber since June 2014, at the peak of the surge of un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors.

Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cials be­lieve that for each il­le­gal im­mi­grant caught, a cor­re­spond­ing num­ber get through. A spike in ap­pre­hen­sions likely means a spike in suc­cess­ful at­tempts as well.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Bor­der Pa­trol, which caught 46,195 peo­ple cross­ing into the U.S. il­le­gally in Oc­to­ber, es­ti­mates that a cor­re­spond­ing num­ber make it.

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