40°F
weather icon Clear

Immigration officials warn border troubles far from over

Updated October 30, 2019 - 6:48 am

WASHINGTON — A top U.S. Border Patrol official has a warning: The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is not over.

Even though crossings have been down over the past few months and news of custody deaths and teeming facilities full of children and families has faded from front pages and talking points of politicians, the number of migrants coming over border is still high. And resources are still stretched.

“It is kind of a new norm. We’re at risk at any time,” if some recent deterrent efforts are blocked by the courts, like a policy forcing asylum seekers to wait out their claims in Mexico , Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations at Border Patrol said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We will go back, mark the words, we will go back to the crisis level that we had before.”

Overshadowed by impeachment news

Immigration has been a top issue since President Donald Trump took office almost three years ago, with Democrats heavily critical of his administration on border conditions. But Washington is now dominated by talk of impeachment and immigration seems somewhat less pressing, with monthly apprehension numbers declining and Mexico and other nations enhancing cooperation with the U.S. on immigration issues.

Still, Trump has not forgotten an issue that was key to his 2016 victory, pointing to it often at public events and at rallies. And as he ramps up his campaign heading into 2020, he’s likely to invoke it often as a measure of his success, telling his supporters that construction is happening on the long-stalled wall he promised along the southern border and that far fewer people are being apprehended crossing the border illegally — if current numbers hold, that is.

Over the budget year that ended Sept. 30, there were 859,510 apprehensions by Border Patrol, plus over 110,000 more encounters of people who tried to enter legally but were deemed inadmissible. There were nearly 1 million crossings from the early 2000s, but those were mostly single men from Mexico who were easily returned, not families from Central America who require much more care.

At a press conference in El Paso, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan spoke in front of a section of bollard-style border wall that covers part of the border in El Paso — the same spot where officials first warned of a grave overcrowding earlier this year. Border Patrol agents sat on four-wheelers and others gathered behind him as he praised agents for their hard work.

While the numbers surged, Homeland Security agents and officers were overwhelmed by the number of families crossing the border as the numbers continued to rise. Families with small children require much more care.

Border officers pleaded for help but it wasn’t until over the summer, when reports of squalid conditions and surging numbers of detainees and children dying were published that Congress authorized additional funding to increase capacity. That funding expired at the end of the fiscal year.

There were more than 200 large groups of more than 100 migrants dropped off by smugglers in remote areas — something that can shut down an entire station for the day for processing — and there were at least 140,000 people who evaded capture.

2014 was considered crisis year

Previously, 2014 was considered a crisis year, when the Obama administration saw a crush of unaccompanied children at the border. The overall apprehensions by Border Patrol were 479,371 — there were 372,000 more in 2019.

Border agents saw more families crossing the border in the month of May this year than the entire budget year of 2014. In 2014, there were about 68,000 families for the entire budget year compared to 84,000 in May 2019 alone.

There were more than 4,900 people rescued including a dramatic increase in river rescues — 742 from 86 the year before.

“I am incredibly proud of the agents,” Hastings said. “They have been vilified, but they deserve to be thanked because we have never, ever dealt with anything like this before.”

Hastings said the so-called remain in Mexico program that is expanding in parts of California and Texas, plus a new rule barring asylum to those who pass through a third country, and crackdowns by Mexico at its own southern border have helped. More than 55,000 people have been turned back , and officials say many have gone home.

The program won’t be extended into the Arizona border right now, Hastings said, because officials are focused on increasing the number of people returned in the areas where it is already in place. And he’s seen Mexico crack down before, but “we’ve never seen them sustain for that long.”

On Tuesday, Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez said a program to process asylum claims within 10 days had included “several dozen” migrants since starting on Oct. 7 in the El Paso sector, which includes southern New Mexico and West Texas.

One shortcut the program takes is to deny in-person visits to immigration attorneys, instead having them communicate exclusively by phone.

Perez said the goal is to do it within the 72-hour period that the Border Patrol generally holds migrants.

The number of immigration officials reassigned to the border has gone down, as more agents and officers go back to their regular jobs. The Border Patrol is looking to create a civilian workforce to help agents with some non-law enforcement duties, according to Hastings.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
RJ Politics Podcast with Deval Patrick - VIDEO
2020 Presidential Candidate Deval Patrick joins hosts Rory Appleton and Steve Sebelius on the RJ Politics Podcast.
Tom Steyer on Donald Trump and the economy - Video
Tom Steyer joins the RJ Politics podcast to talk about his campaign presence in Nevada and how he plans to take Trump on when talking about the economy. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Council Votes On Homeless Ordinance - Video
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will discuss expanding on a controversial camping and sleeping ban aimed at deterring the homeless from bivouacking on city streets to include hours when public sidewalks are being cleaned.
Biden meets with Vegas Latino community - VIDEO
Presidential candidate Joe Biden met with members of the Latino community at Rancho High School. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson, other Nevada cities consent to refugee resettlement - VIDEO
Henderson will continue to welcome refugees for resettlement, according to a December letter from Mayor Debra March. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg Speaks At Black Empowerment Event - Video
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a black empowerment event to talk about his Douglass plan.
Joe Biden at the national hospitality workers union.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the national hospitality workers union during UNITE HERE's town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at Culinary Union Hall in Las Vegas. @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren at Culinary Union
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Culinary Union town hall in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2019.
Secretary of Education visits Henderson school
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited students at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson to talk about college planning on Dec. 4, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump dropped from Terry Fator’s show on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fator has edited out one prominent figure: President Donald Trump, a focal point of Fator’s regular stage show and also Christmas show over the past 3½ years. The Trump puppet, with his pop-up hairpiece, has been sidelined from both shows until further notice. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
THE LATEST
FBI to keep states in loop on election breaches, sources say

In the past, the FBI would alert local governments about attacks on their electoral systems without automatically sharing that information with the state.

 
Senate begins impeachment trial of Trump

The U.S. Senate opened the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump Thursday, senators standing at their desks to swear an oath of “impartial justice.”