Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned over the weekend that the crisis at the U.S. southern border is getting “worse every day,” and begged Congress to act.
“The security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border is getting worse every day. I again ask Congress to act ASAP to give [the Department of Homeland Security] the authorities we need to protect children from the terrible journey, discourage illegal immigration, and secure our border,” Nielsen tweeted on Sunday.
The Secretary called for reform in how the country handles underage foreign nationals, arguing that drug smugglers and traffickers are using children as a “free ticket” into the U.S.
Children from noncontiguous countries — other than Canada or Mexico — cannot be quickly sent back to their home countries because of current trafficking laws, creating an incentive for adult migrants to bring children with them on their journey to the U.S. The explosion of immigrants from Central America has left detainment facilities overwhelmed and resources stretched thin.
“[Homeland Security] needs the authority to treat all migrant children equally in the eyes of the law & make sure unaccompanied children are reunited w/ their families back home after appropriate due process—rather than sitting in border stations and shelters alone waiting for a sponsor,” Nielsen continued.
The tweets followed Nielsen’s letter to Congress, delivered Thursday, that called on lawmakers to change how Homeland Security can process child migrants from noncontiguous countries. In the letter, she asked that legislation be passed that allows DHS to treat all arriving migrant children equally — regardless of which country they came from.
Such a reform, she argues, would allow immigration officials to more quickly deport underage illegals and diminish the “pull” factors that prompt migrants to bring vulnerable children on the dangerous trek through Mexico.
However, such reforms are not likely to pass while the Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives.
As a growing number of illegal migrants continue to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, more enforcement officials are deeming the situation a national emergency.
Speaking at a House committee hearing in February, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said unequivocally that there was “both” a humanitarian and border crisis.
Speaking Thursday on NBC News, former President Barack Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, a Democrat, said the number of daily apprehensions taking place “truly” constitute a crisis.
“On Tuesday there were 4,000 apprehensions. I know that a thousand overwhelms the system. I can’t imagine what 4,000 a day looks like. So, we are truly in a crisis,” Johnson stated.
Customs and Border Protection officers apprehended or stopped 3,974 illegal migrants on March 19, marking the single highest day since Present Donald Trump entered office.
There were six other days in February where crossings surpassed 3,595, topping the 3,530 daily average seen since 2006.
The month of March is expected to be the highest number of apprehensions and encounters in over a decade.
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