tv Acting Commissioner of Customs Border Protection Briefing CSPAN November 17, 2019 4:32am-4:57am EST
>> c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up this morning, leah greenberg discusses efforts supporting the impeachment of president trump and campaign 2020. and conservative commentators and national so indicated -- nationally syndicated radio talk talksost dennis prager about his promotion of free speech. join the discussion. ♪ washington journal mugs are available at c-span's new online store. go to c-span store.org. check out the washington journal mugs and see all of the c-span products. on thursday, the acting head of customs and border protection held a news conference at the
white house to discuss operations at the u.s. southern border. this is 25 minutes. mr. morgan: good morning. today i'd like to talk about the latest southwest border enforcement statistics focusing primarily on the month of october. but first, if we recall, earlier this year we sounded the alarm, actually quite a bit, with respect to the border crisis. and asking congress repeatedly to act to fix the loopholes in our broken immigration system and close the gaps driving this crisis. unfortunately not a single piece of meaningful legislation has been brought forward. and as a result this country stood by and watched as the crisis worsened. as we reached our peak in may of over 140,000 apprehensions in a single month.
however, in the continued absence of congressional action, the president, along with his administration, as well as the hardworking men and women of the customs and border protection and our partner agencies, have taken action. through continued engagement with the government of mexico and the northern countries, we have initiated a network of initiatives, policies and regulations to stem the flow of the migration. together we are approaching this as the regional crisis that it is and we have seen incredible success. just a few weeks ago, i described how we experienced a significant decline in apprehensions in the last four months of the fiscal year 2019. with september at that point marking the lowest number of enforcement actions during the entire year and that was a little over 52,000. but i'm happy to report this month, the month of october, has continued with that trend.
reaching a 14% decline compared to september, with just over 42,000 apprehensions. defying typical seasonal trends once again over the past seven years. and this represents an overall decrease of almost 70% since the peak in may of this year. this is a significant decline. let me put this in perspective real quick. by midyear, c.b.p. was detaining almost 20,000 detainees in custody. now we average less than 3,500 daily. at the height of the crisis, c.b.p. apprehensions exceeded 5,000 in a single day. now we're averaging just over 1,300. and we all but ended catch and release. my grants can no longer expect to be allowed into the interior united states based on fraudulent asylum claims.
and more importantly, we're sending the message to the criminal organizations to stop exploiting these migrants and their profit-making schemes. and additionally, as we've had to navigate unprecedented judicial activism from lower courts and the congressional inaction i talked about, the numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis. and their numbers show it's working. to illustrate this further, we should all shift the demographics in this october. for the first time in nearly 18 months, mexico was a country of origin for the majority of apprehensions and inadmissible aliens, rather than from the northern triangle countries. with single adults surpassing families. the headlines got it, the numbers are low. the numbers are down. but while we made great progress, i want to remind the american people that there still remains a humanitarian crisis at our southern border and,
importantly, a national security crisis along our southwest border as well. cartels, they continue to add to their multibillion-dollar organizations on the backs of these migrants. as i said yesterday, jeh johnson said multiple times that 1,000 apprehensions a day is a bad day. he's right. we're still seeing daily apprehensions far exceeding that benchmark that jeh johnson set when he was secretary. and as i sit here today, as a law enforcement professional, i'm absolutely perplexed why congress cannot come together on a bipartisan manner to fix this. we know the cartels and human smuggling organizations are exploiting the migrants making the journey here. often abused, deprived of adequate food, water and medical attention during their journey. we know this because in f.y.
2019 we averaged 71 hospital visits per day throughout the year. these smuggling organizations leave the migrants in rivers to die, they leave them in open harsh terrain to die, and they leave them in tractor trailers to die. the border patrol conducted over 4,900 rescues of migrants who the smugglers had abandoned to die. we also encountered 24 bodies along the southern border, including skeletal remains. we know children were being rented and recycled and presented as fake families. so, as you can clearly see, our job is not over. not until we shut down the cartels and the human smuggling organizations, put them out of business, and their president is committed to doing just that. that's why our success at addressing the humanitarian crisis should not be overshadowed by the real national security crisis we face. both crises are interconnected and they have to be attacked that way. transnational criminal organizations, they don't just exploit the migrants themselves, they also flood our country with dangerous
drugs. last year c.b.p. officers and border patrol agents seized more than 750,000 pounds of illicit narcotics and our air marine operations contributed to the seizure of an additional 285,000 pounds of cocaine. seizures of the four hard narcotics, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, all went up last year. last year, i know we've talked about this before, but over 60 -- 68,000 deaths in this country due to illicit narcotic use. and methamphetamine mine has has seen a resurgence in this country. superlabs in mexico are taking over the production and flooding the united states with cheaper and purer forms of meth. nationwide, in october of this year, c.b.p. intercepted more than 54,000 pounds of drugs. that's 45% higher than this time last year. and here's a couple of stats
that should shock every american in this country. we seized over 9,700 pound of meth. that's up over 90% from this time last year. we seized 84% increase of fentanyl from this time last year. and last month on the southwest border, c.b.p. seized more than 47,000 pounds of drugs, a 50% increase from this time last year. and we intercepted double the amount of methamphetamine last month than we did last year on the southwest border. the cartels and smuggling organizations continue to exploit our immigration system and enforcement vulnerabilities as we're pulled off the line time and time again to deal with the humanitarian crisis. increasing the threat to our national security. last year more than 150,000 migrants who illegally entered this country got away. the illicit narcotics, the transnational criminal organizations are flooding the
-- are making their way to every town, city and state in this country. it isn't just a border issue. make no mistake, if your city, town or state has a meth problem, it came from the southwest border. so when we talk about the importance of the resources we need, including the wall, and the 76 miles of new wall system that's been built, of the more than 450 new miles of wall we anticipate have constructed by the end of 2020, it's about increasing the c.b.p.'s operational capacity to address both the humanitarian and national security crisis we face at the southwest border. improving our ability to safeguard the united states, uphold the rule of law and maintain the integrity of the system and put the cartels out of business. that's our goal, that's this president's goal. and we're getting there. with that, i'll take some questions. reporter: is cartels your main focus? is the administration giving any
consideration, in the wake of the slaughter of the mormon family, to labeling the cartels a terrorist organization? mr. morgan: so, what i'll say is we are absolutely collectively, from the u.s.g., having those discussions. on what else can we do to absolutely go out and target the cartels, to disrupt them and do as best we can to dismantle them. we still have a ways to go. i think what happened a couple weeks ago with the u.s. citizens being killed, specifically the children, it showed that the cartels are alive and well. it shows that they have the ability to adapt their -- what we call in the t.t.p.'s, right, techniques, techniques and procedures, to continue to thrive. they're continuing to war with each other for control over the plaza and the smuggling routes and why? because it's so profitable. the numbers i just gave out with respect to the number of drugs we seized, think about that. that's just what we seized. it's hard to even fathom the
amount of drugs that are still pouring through and getting into our country. again, 68,000 deaths that occurred last year. so we're having discussions on what we can do from a united states government approach to absolutely go after and target these cartels. yes, sir. reporter: do you have any update on how many people have been sent back as part of -- \[indiscernible] -- and do you have any concerns about reports he we're hearing from the mexican side about -- that once people are returned, they're vulnerable to kidnapping and extortion and other violent crimes? mr. morgan: right now about 50,000 individuals are over there in m.p.p. let me start with a couple of facts and then i'll address the anecdotal information on the violence. so, with respect to facts. i said in my opening, in the peak of may, we had about 20,000 individuals in our custody. right now we have about 3,500. we had, on a given day, over 5,000 apprehensions in a single
day. now we're a little over 1,300. at the peak of may we had 2,700 children in our custody. now we average have 100. so make no mistake, these initiatives, including m.p.p., have absolutely been a game changer. and has been a significant part in our facilities now not being overcrowded with 20,000 individuals, with the apprehension numbers going down. so from a law enforcement perspective, as acting commissioner of c.b.p., m.p.p. has been successful. to address the question on the anecdotal stuff we're hear being violence. the department of state, c.b.p. was part of that, we just went down there last week, actually i think it's been a week and a half ago. we were there with i.o.m., the international organizational migration, we were there with immigration advocate organizations, faith-based organizations, department of state led this and we were also there with the government of mexico personnel. and they visited several shelters.
two of the shelters, the main shelters they visited, one was operated by a faith-based organization and the other by the government of mexico. both of those shelters were found to have persistent law enforcement present, adequate medical attention, adequate food and the safety was ok. i.o.m., which also is providing services for those migrants who are no longer wanting to wait in mexico, free of charge, providing them services to return them to their country free of charge. during that process, it's a very methodical, structured process, i.o.m. interviews those individuals and what i.o.m. told our personnel in that visit is they're not hearing any complaints of people fearing for their lives when they're in or their safety when they're in those shelter environments. keep in mind also, at any given time, if anybody in the m.p.p. process that's waiting in mexico fears for their safety, all they have to do is go to a u.s. port of entry and claim that and they will be allowed to go through that process.
lastly, what we are hearing is that unfortunately some of the individuals in the m.p.p. program are actually going outside the shelter environment, they're re-engaging with the cartels, because they're tired of waiting, and that's what we're hearing, is when some of that further abuse and exploitation has happened. we're seeing a 9% recidivism rate of those individuals who are m.p.p., are actually re-engaging the cartels to illegally enter the united states. so. yes, sir. reporter: you are of course the acting c.b.p. commissioner. there are a number of senior officials at d.h.s. that have acting in their title. are there any senior officials at d.h.s. who have been confirmed by the senate? mr. morgan: i don't get up -- that is of no concern for me. when i get up every day, the fact that i have acting in front of my title is irrelevant. it's irrelevant to what i do, why i do it and how i do it or
how successful or not successful i am. when i get up every single day, i'm trying to do the best i can to get the resources for the men and women of c.b.p. and support who my bosses are, regardless of whether they have acting in front of it or not. from my seat, it's not relevant. reporter: there any senior officials at d.h.s. who have been confirmed by the senate? to your knowledge? mr. morgan: i'd have to go through that. there are a couple. reporter: is that problematic in terms of carrying out your mission? mr. morgan:, no i just said it's not. there's not been a single day that i'm here, the acting in front of my name has prohibited me from carrying out my job and trying to get the resources for the men and women of c.b.p. to do their job. thank you. reporter: would you like to be nominated for your position? would you like to be nominated for your position? mr. morgan: here's what i'll say is. i'm here to serve the president of the united states in whatever capacity he thinks i can best serve.
and so if he thinks i can best serve his vision and this administration's vision in the acting capacity, that's what i'll do. if he thinks i can best serve it in another capacity, i'll do that as well. yes, sir. reporter: following up on john's question. recent report obtained by courts showed that arrests of c.b.p. officers and agents are at a five-year high and that c.b.p. officers and agents are arrested at a much higher rate than other law enforcement agencies. do you think that the lack of stable senate-confirmed leadership has had any effect on the officers, and has anything to do with it? and why do you think that your officers are being arrested more often than other law enforcement agencies? mr. morgan: i'll have to get more fidelity on that. that's not my understanding, that the rest have actually increased. the high rate actually, my understanding is it's decreased a little bit. but regardless, one arrest --
reporter: fiscal year 2018 they had been going down and then they -- mr. morgan: i understand. in my understanding is that they continue to go down. but i'll get some more fidelity on that. that really doesn't matter. one arrest is too many. right? of a law enforcement officer. so we've talked about this before. so, whether somebody's acting or not, i got to tell you, the professionalism of the men and women of the c.b.p., of this organization, that i am the acting commissioner of, whether i have acting in front of my name, i think is of no moment to them when they get up every single day doing their job. i'm trying to answer your question. what my belief, and my understanding of talking to the troops is, what really is frustrating for them is the fact that every day that they get up there and they're risking their lives, every single day trying to protect and safeguard this country, they're enforcing the law that this congress has enacted, the rule of law every single day, they're trying to get out there and so -- let me finish.
i'm trying to answer a question. can i answer your question without being interrupted? so what i'm trying to say is, what i've been told by them, what really frustrates them is the fact that when they're out there doing their job every single day, it's the rhetoric that's out there. the rhetoric that comes from mainstream media, the rhetoric that comes from our -- the rhetoric that comes from our congressional leaders that when they say stuff like they call them nazis and they say that we're making people drink from toilets or running concentration camps, that's, that's, that's, that's what gets them frustrated. no, you asked me what gets them frustrated. right? so what i'm trying to tell you is that the acting, whether somebody's acting or not, has no moment of whether they're going to go out and be arrested. so what i think is the frustration that's out there, sometimes leads them, right, to -- no, not crimes. some of the arrests -- a lot of the arrests we see are d.u.i.'s. so i think we're trying to do our best. so it's really resiliency problem. that's what we're really trying to take a look at. is the resiliency and how can we
better get to these individuals through resiliency to make sure that when they are experiencing frustration and experiencing stress, they're able to get to them before they cross that line. yes, sir. reporter: the president has promoted the construction of a border wall as one of the key determined efforts to try to keep migrants from coming into this country illegally. just for a status update for us. how many miles of wall has been constructed, not wall that's replacing old wall, but new wall has been built to this point? mr. morgan: 78 miles of new wall has been built. reporter: much of that obviously is replacing wall that formerly existed. how many miles of wall now exists where there was no wall whatsoever? mr. morgan: again, my response to that is every mile of wall that's being built is a new mile of wall.
reporter: but just for a breakdown, how many miles formerly existed that have now been renovated or replaced and how many miles new where nothing existed? mr. morgan: the 78 miles that have been built have been built where there was an existing form of barrier. we just started breaking ground in r.g.v. where we're building miles of new wall where there has been no structure there at all. reporter: so that's just now starting, the construction of new wall. mr. morgan: that's correct. reporter: thank you. reporter: last time you said that land acquisition was one of the things making it challenging. can you give us an update on your efforts to acquire land and the challenges you're facing? mr. morgan: land acquisition is going to continue to be a challenge. i'll give you an example. you could have a mile of land on the southwest board where are it goes back in time and could you have multiple owners. from 10 to 100 owners that have a piece of that land. sometimes the records go way back. the records weren't that great. it's a challenge to go through that process. there's also areas like laredo,
for example, that were actually working with the city on the design, the structure and even where it can be placed to make sure that we're taking their considerations into the process as well. it's a challenge. but, again, i still think that we're on track to get the land we need for 450 miles. but i will say, there are lawsuits out there. so, again, we've seen a lot of the judicial activism out there and land acquisition is not going to be immune from that as well. >> last question. reporter: i've seen a case where a mother and daughter were kidnapped after being returned to mexico by the united states. they were then later given asylum in the united states. how does that not is show that a mother who what a credible asylum claim was subjected to unnecessary violence by the united states? mr. morgan: i don't know anything about that specific
case. reporter: when someone is kidnapped in mexico while waiting in the united states for their asylum claim, they're not given asylum in the united states, having been kidnapped while waiting in mexico. what do you make of a claim like that? mr. morgan: go through that one more time. reporter: i talked to a woman, a mother and her daughter, who were returned to mexico by the united states, while trying to seek asylum. they were then given asylum and were allowed to come to the united states. my question, is how does that not show that that mother or someone like her, with a credible asylum claim, was then subjected to unnecessary violence in mexico? mr. morgan: what i'll go back to is what i talked to before. we're working with the government of mexico. they have promised, right, they have committed that they will do everything they can to provide adequate protection and shelter for those individuals waiting in mexico under the m.p.p. program. and again, what we have shown, there have been, again, department of state is engaged, i.o.m. is engaged, nonprofit
organizations are involved, advocacy groups are involved. reporter: this mother was subject to under necessary violence by the united states. mr. morgan: by the united states? reporter: because the country returned her to mexico. she was waiting in mexico. mr. morgan: i'm trying to answer that question. we have to work with mexico. just like the united states here. we have certain responsibilities to make sure to safeguard and protect those people in our custody. mexico has that same responsibility. again, we are working with them to help them in any way we can. i just went through of how we're going over there and visiting those site, we're seeing persistent law enforcement presence, we're seeing the national guard presence there. and we're seeing from i.o.m. saying, hey, we're not seeing that. again, if someone is in fear for their safety or their life, they can come to a port of entry and claim that. and we'll take them in. again, what we are seeing, what we are seeing is that the individuals that leave that shelter environment and re-engage with the cartels to potentially be resmuggled into the united states legally,
that's where we're seeing and hearing anecdotal stories, that that's happening as well. thank you. [talking simultaneously] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] -- and why she talked about the supreme court case on the trunk administrations -- trump's administrations case two in the program. congresswoman veronica escobar.