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tv   Customs Border Protection Officials Hold News Conference on Migration...  CSPAN  March 6, 2019 9:28am-10:04am EST

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c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies, and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. in a little over 20 minutes homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen testifies on border security and other issues. that's live at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span 3. u.s. customs and border protection officials held a news
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conference yesterday on migration trends where they announced that more than 76,000 migrants crossed the southern border illegally in the month of february, a record number officials say is putting an added strain on the agency and border patrol agents. >> thank you, everyone. we will get started. thank you for joining today. my name is andrew mean, i'm the assistant commissioner for public affairs at u.s. customs and border protection. the purpose of today's briefing is to announce the c about. p's enforcement actions for the month of february. i'm joined by chief brian hastings of the law enforcement operations director at the united states border patrol, who will provide the prospective from usbp and the impact on the search in migration over the last several months. commissioner mcaleenan will share his perspective after chief hastings and finally after the commissioners remarks we will open up it for a few questions. the numbers and migration
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statistics will be provided on at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. we will address the fiscal year 2018 border security port when compared to fiscal 2019 illustrate this growing trend. i'm going to provide a brief overview of the numbers and then turn it over to chief hastings. total enforcement actions for february in fiscal year '19 were 76,103 that includes those deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry and those apprehended in between the ports of entry. this presented a 31% increase over january. of that 76,103, 7,249 were unaccompanied children and 40,385 were family unit aliens representing 62% of all enforcement actions. with that, i'm going to turn it over to chief hastings for the border patrol's perspective. >> thank you, sir. good afternoon, my name is brian hastings, i'm the chief of
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operations here at border patrol headquarters. you're going to see some videos here, this outlines a few of the things we have going on currently with the border, specifically these are taken of large groups in the el paso area as well as lord's burring, new mexico. i will talk about some of the challenges that that presents shortly. i want to hit on a few of the things that were already mentioned. primarily, 28 days in february we had over 66,000 apprehensions. during this fiscal year so far to date since october we have had over 268,000 apprehensions so that are, as compared to the same time frame last fiscal year, that's a 97% increase. so a lot of folks look at that and they say frankly based upon those numbers we have seen numbers like that in the past, in fact, if you look back to 2005 we've seen numbers 1.5 million. so a lot of folks don't understand that the significant change in the demographics of what we're seeing today is what
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presents us and our partners with a lot of challenges. historically u.s. border patrol has arrested 70% to 90% mexican nationals, we can apply a consequence to that demographic, we could return them quickly to mexico. today 70% of all those we are arresting are from the northern triangle, guatemala, el salvador and honduras. october 2018 marked the first time in our history that family units exceeded single adult apprehensions and in february of 2019 family units and unaccompanied children accounted for of all border patrol apprehensions. for the miss cal year it's 60% family units apprehensions, family unit and unaccompanied juveniles. so without a consequence, without being able to deliver a consequence to these individuals for illegally crossing our borders, the border patrol has
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no reason to expect that this trend will decrease, in fact, we believe it will increase. it's well known at this time that adults with children will not be detained during the immigration proceedings for illegal entry. the word-of-mouth and social media quickly gets back to those in the northern triangle countries that if you bring a child, you will be successful. from april of 2018 through february of 2019 we've had almost 2,400 fraudulent claims of families. of those fraudulent claims some are folks who have claimed that they are under 18 and are not, others have actually been fraudulent familial claims. another trend that we're seeing and i mentioned earlier are the large groups. this is a dangerous trend for us. we define large group as a group over 100. those groups so far this fiscal year we've seen 70 of those
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groups, over 100. they've totaled over 12,000 apprehensions and the important thing to note is if you look back historically last fiscal year we had 13 of those groups over 100, the year before that, two fiscal groups -- or two groups over 100 for that fiscal year of '17. so that's 99% of all of those individuals are family units, again, and they are from, again, the northern triangle. if the current trend continues, border patrol can expect to apprehend approximately 174 large groups, totaling over 29,000 deportable aliens. now, the issue with this and the concern with this that we have are the majority of these groups are entering in places that are very rugged, very remote, specifically talking two areas, aho, arizona, lord's burring, new mexico, very remote, very
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rugged. the issue that that causes us, the challenge that that causes us is they are the furthest areas from our central processing centers, the furthest areas from medical services, furthest from our transportation services that we have as well. current even more troubling for us is that the current intelligence is telling us and we're seeing firsthand the drug trafficking organizations are utilizing these groups as cover and diversion to divert our agents away from the security -- national security border mission and use them as a diversion to cross drug loads. we've had four specific cases here recently that we've seen those family units being used as a diversionary tactic. that's highly concerning for us going forward. so lastly just want to hit on some of the resourcing issues that all of this causes for u.s. border patrol, cbp. we've devoting a large amount of
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our daily resources to this. the facilities and the manpower cannot support the continued increase in the apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children. our border patrol stations were built in the '80s and '90s, they were built for a different demographic, not for the current amount of family units and uacs that we're seeing and each day each and every day border patrol is putting approximately 25% to 40% of our manpower is being dedicated to the care, transportation and the humanitarian mission. they're pulled from the national security mission to do these things. we're committed to addressing these humanitarian needs, but the current situation is unsustainable for border patrol operations. with this the increased flow, the combined with the stress of the journey the crowded conveyances and flu season has resulted in significant increases for the medical
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referrals for border patrol. currently u.s. border patrol is sending an average of 55 people per day for medical care. during december this was as high as 63. we are on track to refer approximately 31,000 individuals for medical treatment this year as compared to 12,000 last fiscal year. since december 22nd, 2018, u.s. border patrol agents have spent over 57,000 hours at a hospital or medical facility. this equates to just under 5,700 shifts of hospital watch during the 72 days at a cost of $2.2 million in border patrol salary. between 2014, 2018, med par data has shown that we have spent $98 million on medical services for individuals in cbp custody. that's a quick background of
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what we have going on operationally. i'm proud of the professionalism, compassion our agents have shown during confronting this border security and humanitarian crisis and with that i'd like to turn it over to the commissioner mcaleenan to speak more about the ongoing actions. >> thank you, chief, and thank you, assistant commissioner for your briefings. welcome everyone today. it should be very clear from these numbers that we are facing alarming trends in the rising volumes of people illegally skrosing our southwest border or arriving at our ports of entry without documents. this increased flow presents currently at our highest levels in over a decade both a border security and humanitarian crisis. challenges our resources and personnel and is negatively impacting border security. while chief hastings focused on the significant numbers of illegal crossings between ports of entry, 87% of the total flow in february came, we're seeing stark increases in asylum
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seekers as we work to provide lawful and safe access at our southwest border points of entry. in fiscal year 2018 we saw a 120% increase over fiscal year '17 with 38,000 claims at southwest border ports of entry. so far this fiscal year we have seen a 90% increase over those record levels in fiscal year '18 and fully 6 60% are making clai of fear of return to their home country. taken together these numbers are remarkable. 76,000 total apprehensions and inadmissible arrivals in a four week month in february. that's the highest number of encounters in any february in the last 12 years. within that number i just want to underscore in 28 days we had 40,385 encounters with family units and 7250 encounters with unaccompanied children.
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we have apprehended and encou encountered more families in five months and five days than last year's record total. the percentage of people from countries in the northern triangle of central america has increased as well. now 70% of all crossings are from these countries and a full 62% of all cross he thinks and encounters are vulnerable families and children. november of this fiscal year marked the first time that any other country exceeded the numbers of mexican nationals apprehended and encountered by cbp. guatemalans and hondurans are crossing in larger numbers than mexican nationals. these numbers are significant as chief hastings explained because unlike historical crossings which are kproo ised of a large majority of single adult males from mexico who can be repatriated quickly, families and children from central america require increased care and processing and are released into the united states pending adjudication of their immigration claims. within these numbers we are confronting challenging new
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smuggling cycles, pattern and methods. so-called caravans where 500 or more migrants from groups in central america, mostly honduras and travel together to our sbes border. separately we see a new phenomenon highlighted on the screen of large groups of mostly family units from guatemala traveling on buses from mexico to the u.s. border in shorter smuggling cycles making the journey in four to seven days and on a consistent bases. so far this year we've seen more than 70 instances of groups over 100 and one case agents encountered a group of 334 migrants. smugglers are dropping these groups in the most remote areas of our border including places like antelope wells, new mexico, aho, arizona, and yuma, arizona. the availability of these express bus routes means more young children are arriving at our border and seeing them arrive with illnesses and medical conditions in
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unprecedented numbers. so address these concerns which were put into stark relieve with the tragic deaths of two migrant children in december cbp has mounted new efforts to increase medical checks and care upon arrival at border patrol stations or ports of entry. i directed cbp to completely secondary medical reviews of all children in border patrol custody by contract medical professionals or a cbp officer trained as a paramedic. so sustain and formalize this work on january 28th i issues an interim medical directive developed with advice from medical experts and pediatricians to guide cbp's deployment of enhanced medical efforts to mitigate the risk to and improve our care for individuals in gp custody as a result of these surges in children and families. since the directive was signed with the help of interagency partners like the u.s. coast guard and public health service cbp has interviewed 27,000 juveniles and certified medical practitioners have cleaned over
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12,000 more, transporting an average as you heard of 55 people to the hospital each day. we are going to make that procedure publicly available today given the intense interest in our medical efforts on the border. the border patrol's el paso sector i want to highlight because they have experienced these trends and increases more acutely than any other place along the border, new this this fiscal year. that includes el paso and about 40 miles south as well as all the way through new mexico and the boot heel extending toward the west. el paso's sector alone has seen a 434% increase in apprehensions this fiscal year. the vast majority are family units and unaccompanied children arrives in large groups which challenges their capacity in our facilities. facilities housing hydrants near el paso have reached pass exit and gone over capacity in this
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fiscal year, a situation that impacts the efficiency of migrant processing and the quality of our care we're able to provide for detained migrants. we are taking steps to establish a centralized processing center, cpc in the el paso sector. this will help us protect the health and safety of families and children in custody while stream lining operations and reducing the time that we're holding families and children. the el paso central processing center will provide one location for the processing of family units and children in an appropriate environment and will facilitate consistent medical assessments in one location. i want to underscore a ski point here. while our enhanced medical efforts and the creation of new facilities will assist with managing the increased flows and while we will continue to do all that we can to address these increases in traffic safely and humanly the fact is that these solutions are temporary and this situation is not sustainable. remote locations of the united states border are not safe places to cross and they are not
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places to seek am he had cal care. the system is well beyond capacity and remains at a breaking point. based on the experiences of men and women on the front line, this is clearly both a border patrol and humanitarian crisis. we know what is driving these trends. these increases in traffic are a direct response from smugglers and migrants to the vulnerabilities in our legal system. these weaknesses in our immigration laws and accumulated court rulings now represent the most significant factors impacting border security and causing this humanitarian crisis. these include first and foremost the inability to keep families together while they completely expeditious and fair immigration proceedings. instead crossing with a child with a guarantee of a steedy release and indefinite stay in the united states. the asylum gap where approximately 80% of individuals meet the initial credible fear bar in the asylum process while only 10% to 20% of central americans are found to have valid asylum claims at the end
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of their immigration court proceedings. the disparate treatment under the trafficking reauthorization act which allows for children arriving from mexico and canada to be repatriated but not children from other countries including central america regardless of the position of those governments. no one knows these vulnerabilities better than transnational criminal organizations who are continually working to exploit vulnerable people in the northern triangle and the weaknesses in our system. the message from the smuggling organizations to parents in guatemala, honduras and el salvador is clear, if you bring a child you will gain entry to the united states and you will be allowed to stay. there are solutions to this crisis. we need to continue to support the governments in central america to improve economic opportunities to address poverty and hunger and to improve governance and security. the administration announced $5.8 billion in aid and investment commitments in december. we must work with the new administration in mexico on addressing the transnational criminal organizations that prey
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on migrants and incentivize this traffic. must invest in border security including a modern border barrier system, additional agents and officers, technology to screen vehicles and air and marine support. we will put the investments in the fiscal year '19 appropriations bill to good use, but we also need -- we also face an acute need for legislative action to address the gaps in the legal framework given the challenges i outlined here today. every single day smugglers and traffickers profit from human misery by exploiting people who are seeking a better live through human smuggling, transnational criminal organizations have established a new multi-billion dollar line of business. the situation is not safe for migrants, it challenges our ability to provide humanitarian care, it contributes to dangerous conditions on our border and enables smuggling while enriching criminals. regardless of a policy outcome the status quo is unacceptable. it presents an urgent and
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increasing crisis that needs to be addressed. thank you. we will be happy to take some of your questions. >> thanks very much for taking my question. you mentioned the need for legal framework by congress. would you say that that is a higher priority than extending physical barriers at the southern border beyond what was already appropriated in fiscal year '19. >> i think we need to do both. we are facing a border security and humanitarian crisis. the vulnerabilities in the legal framework are creating the incentives for family and children to come to the border, with single adults evading capture and increased narcotics. that's what the border barrier system and technology between ports of entry help us address. we need help on both sides. >> which one do you think could be done faster? >> well, if we could get bipartisan action to address the crisis that we're outlining, legislation could be completed
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faster, but we're also moving out very quickly on the border wall system. >> these numbers are used as a proxy for the flows across the border, but how much of it could just be attributed to your agents having more resources and doing a better job of apprehending people as we build up certain border barriers? >> that's an important point. so our surveillance capability, our ability to interdict those who do cross is at its highest level ever in terms of a border security capability to interdict crossings. families and children are not trying to evade capture, they're presenting. so we're capturing just about all in terms of families an children. that said we know that single adults continue to try to evade capture, we know that smugglers try to use the current flow and on the humanitarian side to bring in drugs and contraband a and we want to make sure we don't miss anybody. we need changes to help us on
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the humanitarian side. >> as far as the migrant protection protocols, which last week they mentioned it's going to extend to other locations th aspect of this factor in that, for example if you have someone that comes and they have a medical issue, will you treat them the same and will they be returned to mexico? how will that play out. >> on the medical side, having the ability to provide certified medical practical tissue another for care at major ports of entry inspect part of our medical expansion. we have that ability at sand cedro. welt to expand it to other places along the border. so if somebody comes in who is very ill we will try to address that and treat them on arrival. what the migrant protection properly protocol allow is additional access for people seeking to present asylum claims or undocumented, a dedicated
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court docket to hear the claims expeditiously. >> last question. >> so with the numbers you have seen in january and february what is the expected forecast for the rest of the year. >> typically we see seasonal season increasing in march april and may. the patterns we see are similar to when what we saw in fiscalier' 14 which led to the first surge of families and children. we are concerned we are seeing numbers rice into march abapril and may especially with the new diversified offering nas smugglers present to bring families to the border more quickly. >> thank you, sir. happy to follow up with anybody with any additional questions. again, the staffing please contact heads of state with co p. d. a with any fair and reasonable follow up thank you.
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>> . >> homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen is on capitol hill this morning to answer questions about border security and explain the administration's plan to handle increasing number of immigrants who are requesting asylum. she appears this morning before the house homeland security committee. life coverage on c-span3. we expect her to arrive shortly.
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. we'll wait until a couple of minutes until the ranking member gets here.
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