DHS chief: Congress must act now on border - Brownsville Herald: Local News

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

DHS chief: Congress must act now on border

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2019 9:47 am

HIDALGO — Amid changes in leadership at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the newly selected acting secretary made the rounds in the Rio Grande Valley this week to assess the situation as asylum-seekers from Central America continue to surrender at the border.

Fresh from a midnight shift observing U.S. Border Patrol agents working in the RGV sector, Kevin McAleenan, the acting DHS secretary, addressed the media at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge Wednesday afternoon.

McAleenan, the now-former U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner recently tasked by President Donald Trump to head DHS after Kristjen Nielsen’s ouster, made remarks related to the seemingly endless arrival of asylum-seekers, and the toll it’s taking on the immigration system.

He said the solution and the responsibility to de-incentivize people from crossing the border fall squarely with lawmakers, and that laws need to change to address the problem. These are the same talking points stressed by the man who lost his job just two weeks ago — Ronald D. Vitiello, who was pushed out by Trump because he wasn’t “tough enough.”

Vitiello said during that conference that congress needed to change the laws to allow families to remain in detention while their immigration cases are pending. Specifically, Vitiello wanted changes to the trafficking victims laws, a change to the Flores settlement agreement and the credible fear process for asylum-seekers.

Prior to his remarks, the acting DHS secretary met with local mayors in the Valley, law enforcement and Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates the respite center in McAllen. McAleenan addressed the ongoing humanitarian and security “emergency” along the border.

“It’s clear that all of our resources are being stretched thin, the system is full, and we are beyond capacity,” McAleenan said. “That means the new waves of vulnerable populations are adding additional pressure to the urgent humanitarian and security crisis here. We don’t have room to hold them, we don’t have the authority to remove them, and they’re not likely to be allowed to remain in the country at the end of their immigration proceedings.”

Prior to the tour of the respite center, which on Wednesday held 400 people, mostly families and children, McAleenan met privately with Pimentel and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.

Pimentel said McAleenan, who toured the center for a little under an hour, expressed a desire to work with Catholic Charities to provide solutions for the many families arriving at the center.

Asked for details about what McAleenan proposed, Pimentel said nothing specific was discussed other than a willingness to include and listen to feedback from Catholic Charities with regard to what is proposed.

“At this point I don’t know if we have any solutions that he proposed,” she said. “He said he was going to work with us to make sure that the solutions that do come forward, that he would listen to what we had to say about it. He appears to be sincere, and a good man, a man who is interested in searching for solutions, and in working with us. He said we will work together to find answers to these issues.”

She said currently, about 200 to 400 people are arriving daily at the respite center after their release from CBP custody.

“(McAleenan) was very cooperative, he’s very supportive and very willing to work with us to make sure that the solutions that will work are responsive to the respect of the families, which is my concern,” Pimentel said.

McAleenan was in the Valley to address the agency’s continued efforts in what is being characterized as a “crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border, as thousands of asylum-seekers arrive at the border and surrender to agents in large groups, straining CBP resources at facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Flanked at the news conference by now-acting CBP Commissioner John P. Sanders, RGV Border Patrol Sector Chief Rodolfo Karisch and others, McAleenan emphasized during his brief time before the media in Hidalgo that the change must come through Congress.

“We’re imploring Congress to provide not only the resources that we need to enhance our humanitarian and border security efforts, but most importantly to work with us on targeted solutions for the causes, to restore integrity to our immigration system, and remove the incentives for families and children to cross our border illegally,” he said.

Since about the beginning of the year and through March, Border Patrol and CBP officials were noting that the increase of families and unaccompanied children surrendering to them at the border was inundating their immigration system, and leaving them overcapacity at processing and detention stations.

In early March, CBP confirmed it had begun to release families with a notice to appear as their facilities were overcapacity, and with lack of space to house them, they said they had no choice to release them despite having U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities remaining mostly unused.

As of early April, the ICE facility at Karnes which holds more than 800 people had roughly 60 people being housed; the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which has a maximum occupancy of more than 1,400, had about 1,000 people being housed; and the ICE-run facility in Berks County Pennsylvania, which is currently housing about 20 persons, has a maximum capacity of more than 2,400 people, according to ICE officials.

Last week, CBP reported that Border Patrol agents had apprehended 92,607 people along the southwest border in March — more than 60 percent of those being composed of families and unaccompanied children who are arriving at the border and surrendering to agents.

CBP reported of the more than 92,000 total apprehensions on the southwest border, 53,077 were of families and another 8,975 made up of unaccompanied minor children — the majority of whom are coming from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

McAleenan said the combined agencies’ focus is on care for the families and children arriving — this despite national outcry over recent deaths of migrants who were in the custody of Border Patrol.

“This humanitarian situation on our border cannot be ignored, this is about the safety of children, and that’s our first and foremost responsibility,” McAleenan said.

CBP confirmed the death of a 40-year-old Mexican national at an El Paso hospital on March 18, which was days after he was apprehended attempting to re-enter the country illegally, a CBP news release stated.

It was the fourth death of a migrant in CBP custody since December, which includes an 8-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl.

On Feb. 18, a 45-year-old Mexican national died at a McAllen hospital two weeks after he was apprehended near Roma.

To address the deaths and the overall issues facing their agencies, McAleenan said DHS is working to expand medical care, build temporary facilities, improve transportation and using resources across the federal government.

Follow us on Facebook

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>




Online Features

Pet Central

pets

Having a pet is a lot of responsibility, and we’ll help by giving you lots of tips and tricks! More >>

Fitness

Fitness

Our fitness articles will help teach you how to work out with gym- and home-based exercises. More >>

Crosswords

Crosswords

Enjoy the crosswords challenge in our free daily puzzles, from the harder Sunday crossword to the quicker daily. More >>

Sudoku

Sudoku

Every Sudoku has a unique solution that can be reached logically. Enter numbers into the blank spaces so that each row, column and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 to 9. More >>