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CBP Commissioner: As acutely manifested in El Paso, ‘breaking point has arrived’ along border

US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan , in El Paso to discuss the increase of migrants who continue to enter the US along the Southwest border, urged Congress to fix our nation’s asylum laws.

” Two weeks ago, I testified before Congress and briefed the media that our immigration system was near its breaking point, ” said McAleenan in regard to the surge in migrant crossings. ” That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. This is an unprecedented crisis and nowhere has it manifested itself more acutely than in El Paso. ”

McAleenan’s visit comes as U.S. immigration authorities temporarily closed highway checkpoints in New Mexico and much of West Texas, as they reassign agents and use the outposts to help process the growing numbers of Central Americans arriving at the Mexican border. Checkpoints are closed throughout the Border Patrol’s El Paso, Texas, sector, which stretches across 268 miles of border in Texas and New Mexico. The checkpoints, located up to 100 miles from the border, are designed to be a final layer of defense against illegal border crossings.

Arrests along the US-Mexico border jumped to 66,450 in February, up 149 percent from a year earlier, as more Central American families seek asylum.

The Associated Press reports El Paso has quickly emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings behind Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, with arrests in February about eight times higher than they were a year ago.

McAleenan said there were 12,000 migrants in custody in El Paso on Monday, March 25, 2019. Two days later, that number increased to 13,400. The commissioner said 4,000 migrants in custody is considered a high number, 6,000 in custody is considered a crisis and 13,000 in custody is simply ” unprecedented. ”

The U.S. Border Patrol expects to apprehend more than 100,000 migrants in March. McAleenan said 65 percent of those crossing into the U.S. consist of Central American migrants and unaccompanied migrant children. ” These individuals cannot be immediately repatriated expeditiously. They are almost guaranteed to remain in the U.S. indefinitely regardless of the merit of their asylum claim, ” said McAleenan .

The CBP Commissioner said 90 percent of migrants coming to the U.S. – about 90,000 people – are ” crossing illegally in between ports of entry, ” undermining border security efforts. According to McAleenan , 65 percent of migrants enter the U.S. peacefully, but the other 35 percent are ” single adults who try to avoid apprehension, among them, violent criminals, sex offenders and drug traffickers. ”

The CBP Commissioner warned that continued inaction by Congress is going to continue to put people at risk, including children. He also discussed the challenges of caring for migrants. CBP has instituted an ” unprecedented policy ” of providing health screenings for every minor under the age of 17, the commissioner said. Border Patrol agents are taking about 60 migrants a day to area hospitals. Agents have encountered migrants with the flu, chicken pox and lice. Agents recently encountered an infant with a fever of 105 degrees, a 2-year-old suffering from seizures in the desert and an elderly woman who required immediate surgery.

CBP is reassigning 750 border inspectors to care for growing numbers of migrant families arriving at the border. McAleenan said the temporary assignments will lengthen wait times at border crossings, hurting international trade and creating delays. He says the move is necessary to address what he calls an ” operational crisis. ”

The CBP Commissioner praised the City of El Paso, the Office of Emergency Management and Annunciation House for their ” strong partnership ” caring for the migrants while they make travel arrangements to meet with relatives or sponsors.

Still, McAleenan warned the current surge in migrant crossings is a ” direct response to the vulnerability in our legal framework ” with ” smugglers who profit by taking advantage of our nation’s immigration system and asylum system. ”

” We will continue to do everything we can to manage this crisis, but we need Congress to act, ” McAleenan said.


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