tv Customs Border Protection Officials Hold News Conference on Migration... CSPAN March 5, 2019 9:01pm-9:28pm EST
appeals. -- had 2:30 p.m. the senate armed services committee looks into military sexual assault prevention and response. u.s. customs and border officials held a conference on migration trends announcing that more than 76,000 migrants crossed the southern border illegally in the month of february a record number that officials say is putting added strain on the agents the and border patrol agent. this is just over 20 minutes.
>> thank you everyone. we will get started. thank you for joining today. i'm the assistant commissioner for public affairs at u.s. customs and border protection. the purpose of today's briefing -- for the month of february and fiscal year 19. joined by chief ryan hastings a law enforcement operator who this surge impact of in migration of the last several months. commissioner remarks will open it up for a few questions. the numbers and migration specifics will be provided on cbp.gov at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. we will let dressed fiscal year whenfor security port compared to fiscal 2019 to
illustrate this trend. i will turn it over to chief hastings, total enforcement actions for february in fiscal year 2019 were 76,103. that includes those deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry and those apprehended in between the ports of entry. this represented 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 perspective. chief hastings: good afternoon, my name is brian hastings, chief of operations here at border patrol headquarters. this outlines a few things we have going on currently with the border, specifically these are taken in some large groups in the el paso area as well as new mexico.
i will talk about some of the challenges 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, since october, we have had over 268,000 apprehensions so far. as compared to the same time frame last fiscal year. that's a 97% increase. a lot of folks say frankly based upon those numbers we have seen numbers like that in the past. if you look back to 2005, we have 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 presents us and our partners with challenges. historically the u.s. border patrol has arrested 70% to 90% of mexican nationals. we can apply a consequence to that demographic.
we could return them quickly to mexico. today 70% of all those we're 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 65% of all border patrol apprehensions. for the fiscal 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 no reason to expect it will decrease, 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. if you bring a child, you'll be successful. from february of 2018 to february of 2019 we had almost 2,400 fraudulent claims of families. of those 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, 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 have seen 70 of those groups, over 100. they have totaled over 12,000 apprehensions, and the important thing to note if you look back historically, last fiscal year we had 13 of those groups over 100. the year before that, two
groups over 100 for that fiscal year of 2017. 99% of all those individuals are family units 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. 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, ajo, arizona, lordsburg, new mexico. very remote, very rugged. the issue that that causes us, the challenge 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. even more troubling for us is
that the current intelligence is telling us, we're seeing firsthand, the drug trafficking organizations are utilizing these groups as cover and diversion to divert our agents away from the national security border mission and use them as a diversion to cross drug loads. we have had four specific cases here recently that we have seen those family units being used as a diversionary tactic. that's highly concerning for us going forward. i just want to hit on some of the resourcing issues this causes for u.s. border patrol, c.b.p. we're devoting a large amount of 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 1980's and 1990's. they were built for a different demographic, not the current
amount of family units 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 are pulled from the national security mission to do these things. we're committed to addressing the humanitarian need, but the current situation is unsustainable for border patrol operations. with this the increased flow, combined with the stress of the journey, the crowded conveyance, and flu season has resulted in significant increases for the medical 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're on track to refer approximately 31,000 individuals for medical treatment this year
as compared to 12,000 last fiscal year. since december 22, 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 data has shown that we have spent $98 million on medical services for individuals in c.b.p. custody. that's a quick background of 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.
commissioner mcaleenan: thank you, chief, for your briefings. welcome, everyone today. it should be very clear from these numbers that we're facing alarming trends in the rising volumes of people illegally crossing 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 negatively impacting border security. while chief hastings focused on the significant numbers of illegal crossings between ports of entry where 87% of the total fall in february came, we're seeing stark increases in asylum seekers as we work to provide lawful and safe access at our ports of entry. in fiscal year 2018 we saw a 120% increase over fiscal year 2017 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 2018 and fully 60% of inadmissible persons at our southwest border ports of entry are making claims of fear of return to their home country. taken together these numbers are remarkable. 76,000 total apprehensions in 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 7,215 encounters with unaccompanied children. that means we have apprehended and encountered more families in just five months and five days than last year's record total. not only are the numbers increasing, the percentage of people from countries in the northern triangle and central america has increased as well. now 70% of all crossings are from these countries and a full 62% of all crossings 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 c.b.p. guatemalans and hondurans are both crossing now in larger numbers than mexican nationals. these numbers are significant as chief hastings explained because unlike historical crossings, which are comprised of a large majority of single adult males from mexico who could be repatriated quickly, families and children from central america require increased care in processing and released into the united states pending adjudication of their immigration claims. within these numbers we're confronting challenging new smuggling cycles, patterns, and methods. so-called caravans where 500 or more migrants form groups in central america and travel together through mexico to our southwest border.
separately we see a phenomenon highlighted on the screen of large groups of mostly family units from guatemala who are traveling on buses through mexico to the u.s. border in shorter smuggling cycles, making the journey in as little as four to seven days on a consistent basis. so far this year as chief hastings alluded to, we have seen more than 70 instances of groups over 100. in 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, ajo arizona, and yuma, arizona. the availability of these express bus routes mean more young children are arriving at our border and seeing migrants arrive with illnesses and medical conditions in unprecedented numbers. to address these concerns, which were put into stark relief with the tragic deaths of two migrant children in december, c.b.p. is managing significant new efforts to increase medical checks and care upon arrival at border
patrol stations or ports of entry. on december 25, 2018, i directed them to complete secondary medical reviews of all children in border patrol custody by either contract medical professionals or c.b.p. agent and officer trained as an e.m.t. or paramedic. to sustain and formalize this work, on january 28, i issued an interim medical directive, developed with advice from medical experts and pediatricians, to guide c.b.p.'s deployment of enhanced medical efforts to mitigate the risk to and improve our care for individuals in c.b.p. custody as a result in these surges of children and families. since the directive was signed, with the help of entering partners like the u.s. coast guard and public health service, c.b.p. has interviewed 27,000 juveniles and certified medical practitioners have screened 1,000 more, transporting an average of 55 people to the hospital each day. we're going to make that
procedure publicly available today given the intense interest in our medical efforts on the border. the border patrol 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 in this fiscal year. that includes el paso and about 40 miles south, as well as all the way through new mexico and the boot hill extending toward the west. el paso sector alone has seen a 434% increase in apprehensions this fiscal year. the vast majority are family units and unaccompanied children arriving in large groups which challenges their capacity and our facilities. facilities having migrants near el paso have reached capacity and gone over numerous times in this fiscal year in the first quarter a situation that impacts both the efficiency of migrant processing and quality of the care we're able to provide. to help address this, we're taking steps to establish a centralized processing center, c.p.c., in the el paso sector. this will help us protect the health and safety of families and children in custody while
streamlining 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 and an appropriate environment and will facilitate consistent medical assessments in one location. i want to underscore a key point here. while our enhanced medical efforts and the creation of new facilities will assist with managing the increased flows and while we'll continue to do all we can to address these increases in traffic safely and humanely, the fact is these solutions are temporary and the situation is not sustainable. remote locations of the united states border are not safe places to cross and they are not places to seek medical care. the system is well beyond capacity and remains at a breaking point. based on the experiences of men and women on the frontline, this is clearly both a border security and humanitarian crisis. and 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 complete expeditious and fair immigration proceedings. instead, crossing with a child is a guarantee of a speedy release and indefinite stay in the united states. 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 claims at the end of their immigration court proceedings. and the treatment under the trafficking victims protection re-authorization act which allows for children arriving from mexico and canada, contiguous countries, to be repatriated but not children from other countries, including those in 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 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 on migrants and incentivizes traffic. we must invest in border security, including a modern border barrier system, additional agents and overs, technology to screen vehicles, and air and marine support.
we will put the investments in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill to good use. 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 life. through human smuggling, transnational organizations have established a new multibillion 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 anyone's preferred policy outcome, status quo is unacceptable. it presents an urgent and increasing crisis that needs to be addressed. thank you. we'll be happy to take some of your questions. reporter: thank you very much. 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 appropriated in fiscal year 2019? commissioner mcaleenan: the vulnerability in the legal framework are creating incentives for family and children to come to the border while we still face significant numbers of single adults trying to evade capture and increase narcotics. that's at the border barrier system and technology between ports of entry helps us address. we need help on both sides. reporter: which one do you think could be done faster? commissioner mcaleenan: if we could get bipartisan action to address the crisis that we're outlining, legislation could be completed faster. but we're also moving out quickly on the border wall system. reporter: these numbers are used as a proxy for the flows across the border. 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. commissioner mcaleenan: our surveillance capability, our ability to interdict those who do cross is at its highest level in terms of a border security capability. as you note, families and children are not trying to evade capture. they are presenting. we're capturing just about all folks who cross between ports of entry in terms of family and children. that said, we know that single adults continue to try to evade capture. we know that smugglers try to use the current flow on the humanitarian side to bring in drugs and contraband. we want to make sure we don't miss anybody. we need that dual investment on the border security side and changes on the humanitarian side. reporter: as far as the migrant protection protocol, how does the medical aspect of this factor into this? if you have someone who comes and they have a medical issue,
will you treat them the same? how will that play out? commissioner mcaleenan: on the medical side having the ability to provide certified medical practitioner for care at our major ports of entry is absolutely part of our medical expansion. not just border patrol stations we have that ability and want to expand it to places like el paso. and other places along the southern border. if somebody comes in who is ill we'll try to address that and treat them on arrival. what it will allow to us do is create additional access for people that are seeking to present claims or undocumented and dedicated court docket to hear those claims more expeditiously. >> last question. reporter: january, february, what is the expected forecast
for the rest of the year? commissioner mcaleenan: typically we see seasonal increases in march, april, and may. the patterns we're seeing right now are very similar to what we saw in fiscal year 2014 which led to the first significant surge of families and children. we're very concerned that we're going to see numbers continue to rise into march, april, and may, especially with these new diversified official smugglers are presenting to bring families to the border more quickly. >> thank you, sir. happy to follow-up with anybody with any additional questions. again, the please do not hesitate to contact c.b.p. with any additional follow ups. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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