WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of migrant families crossing
the southwest border is again breaking records, and the
crush is overwhelming border agents and straining
facilities, officials said Tuesday.
than 76,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last
month, more than double the number from the same period last
year. Most were families coming in ever-increasingly large
groups — there were 70 groups of more than 100 people in the
past few months, and they cross illegally in extremely rural
locations with few agents and staff. There were only 13
large groups during the previous budget year, and only two
the year before.
system “is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking
point,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner
Kevin McAleenan said a press conference Tuesday.
new figures reflect the difficulties President Donald Trump
has faced as he tries to cut down on illegal immigration,
his signature issue. But it could also help him make the
case that there truly is a national emergency at the border
— albeit one built around humanitarian crises and not
necessarily border security. The Senate is expected to vote
next week and join the House in rejecting his national
emergency declaration aimed at building border walls, but
Trump would almost certainly veto the measure and the issue
is likely to be settled in the courts.
the deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody,
Customs and Border Protection stepped up medical screenings.
They also announced sweeping changes including more rigorous
interviews as migrants come into the system.
McAleenan said a new processing center would be built in El
Paso, Texas, that will be better suited to manage families
and children and handle medical care concerns — but it’s not
a permanent solution.
our enhanced medical efforts will assist in managing the
increased flows, the fact is that these solutions are
temporary and this solution is not sustainable,” he said.
fewer people overall are being apprehended crossing the
border illegally each year — about 400,000 over the last
budget year compared with the high of 1.6 million in 2000,
the increasing numbers are alarming, officials said.
apprehended used to be mostly single men from Mexico, but
are now mostly families from Central America — since
October, more than 130,000 families have been apprehended
between ports of entry. From October through September 2018,
about the same number of families was apprehended at the
U.S.-Mexico border. Tens of thousands of children illegally
cross the border alone. While single men used to evade
capture, the families are seeking out agents.
Customs and Border Protection also reported using firearms
less and less. There were 15 instances where officers and
agents used firearms during the budget year 2018, down from
a high of 55 reported during the 2012 budget year, and down
from 17 during 2017’s budget year and 25 the year before.
Despite high-profile instances in recent months where agents
used tear gas on groups of migrants that included children,
use of less-lethal force like tear gas, batons or stun guns
are also down, to 898. That’s a decrease from the high in
2013 of 1,168, according to the data.
officials said the large families groups are creating
opportunities for smugglers because attention is diverted to
the large groups. Border officials say they worry they’re
spending too much time on migrant care and not enough on
2018’s fiscal year, border agents and officers seized more
than 1.7 pounds of narcotics, including 1.1 million pounds
of marijuana, 282,570 pounds of cocaine, 6,552 pounds of
heroin and 2,463 pounds of fentanyl, mostly through ports of
entry, according to the border security report from budget
year 2018, released Tuesday. Fentanyl seizures were up
nearly 70 percent from the last budget year.
Complaints of excessive force prompted the border
enforcement agency to commission an audit and investigation
by the Police Executive Research Forum, a research and
policy group. The 2013 audit highlighted problems that
included foot-patrol agents without access to less-lethal
options, and it recommended law enforcement not be allowed
to use deadly force when people throw rocks — a suggestion
that was rejected.
Following those reviews, major training and policy changes
were made. Border Patrol agents now undergo scenario-based
drills at the academy and learn how to de-escalate tense
situations. They get 64 hours of on-the-job training on use
of force. Agents and officers are authorized to use deadly
force when there is reasonable belief in an imminent danger
of serious physical injury or death to the officer or
have discretion on how to deploy less-than-lethal force: It
must be both “objectively reasonable and necessary in order
to carry out law enforcement duties” — and used when other
“empty hand” techniques are not sufficient to control
disorderly or violent subjects.
Officials say they deploy the lowest form of force necessary
to take control of a situation, but instances a few months
ago where tear gas was used on migrants that included
children drew strong criticism.
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