Border Patrol Chief testifies on the border crisis in front of the Senate

Channel: Fox Business
Published: 05/08/2019

Senate Judiciary Border Security & Immigration Subcommittee holds hearing on "At the Breaking Point: The Humanitarian and Security Crisis at our Southern Border." Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner Todd Owen, DHS Acting Executive Associate Director for Enforc...

And they're even more challenging with recent developments on the border. I want to thank you for being willing to take well not only take on that task, but to share with us your insights into what's occurring along the border and any advice you may have for us on how to provide a solution. The situation unfolding on our southern border is grim. A major increase in unlawful border crossings, combi ...
ed with a drastic shift in migration trends and outdated laws and infrastructure, has placed an incredibly great strain on law enforcement on our legal system and local border communities. In mid-march acting secretary, michael lennon, in his capacity as cbp commissioner warned us, and the american public thatthe immigration system was near a breaking point since that time, a bad situation has gotten nothing but worse, bringing that breaking point to our doorstep. Yet there are those who, still here in washington, choose to ignore the gravity of the situation or worse, to label it it's fake or manufactured. At one point: there were elected officials who got into a debate about calling it a crisis versus an emergency. I really don't care how you label it. The entire system is breaking and it is unsustainable. Facts, as they say, are stubborn, stubborn things. So, let's go over a few facts. In 2006, 90 % of illegal border crossings were committed by single adults from mexico.

A vastmajority of whom were repatriated back to their home country within hours in fiscal year 2019. So far, more than 60 % of those apprehended along the southern border have been either families or unaccompanied children. A vast majority of these individuals have traveled a long, dangerous journey from central america. From march 2018 to march of this year, the u. s. border patrol apprehended more than 361,000 people along the southern border, a 108 percent increase compared at the same time in same time period in fiscal year 2018. This represents a one hundred six percent increase in the rio grande valley, a one hundred seventy four percent increase in yuma and a five hundred and forty eight percent increase inthe el paso sector. During the same time period, the border patrol apprehended nearly thirty six thousand unaccompanied children, an increase of 66 percent. This represents an 82 % increase in san diego of one hundred and twenty four percent increase in del rio and a three hundred and thirty three percent increase in the el paso sector. Finally, zeroing in on the biggest driver of the increase in illegal border crossings, family units from october to march, the border patrol apprehended one hundred and eighty nine thousand five hundred and eighty four families along the southern border. A three hundred and seventy four percent increase from the same time period in fiscal year 2018. This represents a two hundred andtwenty, eight percent increase in the rio grande valley, a six hundred and thirty six percent increase in del rio and an astonishing one thousand.

Six hundred and seventy percent increase in the el paso sector in may and june and june of 2014 at the height of what president obama then called a humanitarian crisis. Approximately 135 thousand people were apprehended at the southern border in february and march of this year. Again, a comparable two-month period more than one hundred and eighty thousand were apprehended. Let me just repeat that back when president obama called this, a humanitarian and security crisis was when 135,000 people were apprehended this year february of march, a hundred and eighty thousand wereapprehended. So obviously, this trend is getting worse and worse. You'Ll notice that the statistics i cited today are current through march or 2019, and more than a month has passed since the american people received an update from customs and border protection on the situation. It'S my understanding that cbp has collected and analyzed the southwest border apprehension. Data from april'chief provo is prepared to present that data to us. Today. I look forward to hearing, i think what has happened during the past month. A new phenomenon has also emerged. A rapid rise in the number of large groups of a hundred people or more arriving at the border together, making the demanding jobs of agents onpatrol all the more difficult.

This was the most strikingly on display this last week, when a group of more than 400 migrants presented themselves to the small town of sunland park new mexico, just across the border from el paso texas, the increased apprehensions have led to crowded border patrol stations in certain Days over the last few months, cbp has had more than 14,000 people in their custody. Just yesterday the rio grande valley sector announced their stations and processing centers were holding more than 7,000 immigrants, that is for one border patrol sector, 7,000. Cbp customs and border protection simply does not have the facilities or resources to manage those kinds of numbers: cbp detention facilities, aresmall built for the short-term detention of single adults. During a recent television interview, secretary of mecklen, maclean and accurately described these facilities is similar to police stations, yet some of them hold as many as 7,000 people. The current migrant surge of central american children and families has stretched these facilities and the people who staffed them beyond their beyond their abilities beyond their capacity with so many people to process and more manpower needed to process them. Border patrol agents have been taken off the line, leaving eight leaving areas of the border vulnerable to exploitation by human smugglers and drug cartels, and the cbp officers have been reassigned from their duties at international bridges and ports, ofentry slowing legitimate commerce and travel. There should be no doubt that the drug cartels are using this situation to their advantage. Cbp siege, seizures of meth heroin and cocaine are all on the rise in response. In early april, then-secretary nielsen created the interagency border emergency cell to determine how to best, coordinate resources and appointed my friend manny padilla who's with us today to lead the effort. I look forward to hearing from him on the progress that was made, while some may think that the situation is manageable and that time is on our side. I think they're ignoring reality and i disagree, and i know many of my constituents in texas feel the same. We'Re onthe front lines of this and we're simply not set up manned, nor do we have the capacity to absorb this huge wave of human migration coming in all at one time.

In response to this worsening situation. Last week i, along with my colleague from laredo texas, congressman henry cuellar, a democrat, introduced the humane act. The humane act is, you can see a bipartisan bicameral solution to make the practical necessary reforms to address the loopholes in our laws, ensure that families stay together and better protect unaccompanied children release from hhs custody. We also adopt several recommendations from the bipartisan dhs homeland security advisory council, including the establishment of regional processing centers along the border and neededstreamlining of processing claims. This legislation, to be sure, will not solve every problem, but it's a big step forward that would have an impact and will bring some order out of the chaos. I urge our my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with us to try to solve this problem. We need to quit looking at this through a political lens or wait to try to solve what else is broken and needs to be fixed in our immigration system. This is an emergency situation and only congress can provide the authorization in order to allow our good men and women and customs and border protection, the resources they need in order to deal withthis crisis. This problem will only continue to grow without our intervention and obviously it requires court compromise in cooperation finally to the men and women of cbp ice and orr, who are working around the clock in very difficult conditions to confront a worsening situation. I want to express my thanks and my gratitude on behalf of all of us. We sent them out into a losing battle unless we can work together here in congress to give them the resources they need in order to do the job that we've asked them to do. I want to assure these dedicated men and women that we are trying, and i want to thank our witnesses for appearing before ustoday.

I look forward to your testimony with that. I'Ll now recognize senator durbin the ranking member for any opening remarks. He cares to me thanks. Mr. chairman, i'm glad we're having this hearing consider this in fiscal year 2017, which included the end of the obama administration and the beginning of the trump administration. 303 thousand people were apprehended at the border 75 thousand, that included 75,000 families, 41,000 unaccompanied children, while only two months on the job. President trump bragged about the results on march 26 2017, he tweeted - and i quote, general kelly's doing a great job at the border numbers are way down. Many are not even trying to come in anymore. Here we are twoyears later the numbers are way up on president trump's watch only six months into fiscal year, 2019 only half way into 2019 361 thousand people have already been apprehended at the border, including a hundred and eighty nine thousand family units and 36,000 unaccompanied children. That'S more total apprehensions in the first half of this fiscal year than in the entire fiscal year 2017. So the president has changed his message on march 7th he tweeted in a quote. We are on track to apprehend more than 1 million people coming across the southern border.

This year can be fixed by congress so easily and quickly, if only the democrats would get on board. So when the numbers wereway down the president took credit, but now that the numbers are up, it turns out it's the democrats. Let'S look at the facts. During less than two and a half years of the trump administration, the department of homeland security has been in chaos. There have already been four different heads of the department secretary john kelly, acting secretary elaine, duke secretary kirsten nielsen and now acting secretary, kevin mclean at mclennan, and there have already been four acting directors of immigration and customs enforcement in two years and three nominees to head Ice one year ago this week on may 7th 2018, then attorney general sessions announced a get tough policy, the full implementation of the administration's disastrouszero-tolerance policy, which led to the separation of at least two thousand eight hundred and eighty infants, toddlers and children from their parents. Thanks to an investigation by the inspector general that i requested, we now know that before that announcement, thousands more children, it may have been separated by this administration and pursuit of the policy before it was announced. Just two weeks ago, federal district court judge, dana sabra from california, ordered the administration to begin efforts to identify and reunite these families. This government-sanctioned zero-tolerance policy was a failure and sadly, a sad commentary on america. The president was forced to reverse his position on this and though he's hinted that he might return to it. Againi pray that he won't. I went to an immigration court hearing last july in chicago in a high-rise in the loop. The hallways were packed with people whose names were on the docket.

I met the immigration court, judge she'd been at it for 18 years. I believe that she was a conscientious professional, caring person. She was overwhelmed by the numbers facing her. She asked if i'd stayed for the first two clients on the docket, the first one she said at first. She said everyone should get in their chairs for this here, there's difficulty one of the clients couldn't get in her chair. You see marta was two years old. She need to be lifted, upand put in the chair and handed a stuffed animal hamilton, the four-year-old boy scrambled into his chair when he saw the matchbox car on the table. That was the zero tolerance policy. Those two children had been separated for their parents for months. Experts tell us that can have a lasting impact on a child's development. Luckily, we've abandoned that policy and i hope we don't return to return to it and an effort to get drunk get tough. And let's not forget that earlier this year the president forced the longest government shutdown in history in an effort to get congress to pay.

For a wall that mexico was supposed to build the trump shutdown paralyzed, the veryimmigration courts, i've just described and added to the backlog of cases, these courts play a critical role in processing cases of migrants seeking asylum. I wish we could hear from the justice department immigration judges about that backlog at some future hearing. The reality is the trump administration's policies has made our borders less secure and many times undermined our american values when the president threatens to shut down the border. It'S like a neon sign that transporters, smugglers and others used to encourage desperate families to flee as quickly as possible. I'D say the chief provost. I had a chance to visit on april 12th down at el paso, and i want to thank all the people. Thati met and join with chairman in saluting them. I want to especially thank the gentleman, the officer from the border patrol the fact that he was from chicago and a cubs fan that was standing. He gave me a real insight into the challenge that the men and women of the border patrol were facing down there, but i can tell you this is not their doing, but the president suggested of custom cutting out all assistance to the northern triangle. Countries, el salvador, guatemala and honduras, and shutting down avenues for legal migration, just guarantees more refugees will flow to our border. I'M sorry! We couldn't have the state department here to tell us a little bit aboutthat aspect of the challenge. The president is pulled up, pulled off a rare unassisted triple play with this border policy.

It'S cruel, it's unpredictable and it's ineffective. The administration and its allies in congress argue that critical humanitarian protections are actually a magnet drawing vulnerable families and children to our country. They claim, with a straight face, that we can better protect these migrants by making it easier to detain them indefinitely and deport them without due process. But if people were migrating to the united states simply because of so-called legal loopholes, they would be coming from all over the region. Instead, more than 90 percent of the unaccompanied children come from three countries in the northern trianglethere's zero evidence to support the conclusion that repealing tvp, ra and overturning the flores settlement will actually deter migrants. In fact, the administration's already imposed numerous restrictions on asylum that have not deterred these desperate families and children. They don't address the root causes of why the coming democrats are serious about this situation and believe we need to work together to solve it. In february. After the president finally ended his government shutdown, a number of us joined with the republicans and wrote an omnibus appropriation bill. It included five hundred and sixty-four million for inspection equipment at the ports of entry, a suggestion that came from now acting secretary, michael lehman and 414 million for humanitarian assistancelong overdue. We can do more to make sure, even in the midst of a political controversy, that our treatment of these desperate people reflects who we are as americans. In the last congress democrats introduced the central arab-american reform and enforcement act as a comprehensive response.

I'M announcing that next week, we'll reintroduce it it'll address the root causes in the northern triangle, cracked down on cartels and traffickers provide for in-country processing of refugees, so they don't have to make. The trek across mexico expand third country country resettlement in mexico and other central american countries and eliminate the immigration court backlog. We stand ready as democrats to work with the republicans and the president on smart effectiveand, humane border security policies. I hope that we can do this together, senator graham, i understand, may be coming, but this time i'll recognize the ranking member of the full committee senator feinstein for any comments, she'd care to make. Thank you very much mr. chairman, and thank you for scheduling today's hearing and i welcome all the witnesses here today. I don't think i need to tell anyone, judging from this full room, that we face a challenge at the border. Today, fewer are crossing illegally than in the late 1990s when well over a million people crossed every year, but the number of families seeking asylum is high and continuing to climb. We need humanitarian and common-sensesolutions to address these asylum claims fairly and promptly, but, as i understand it, the administration is threatening to make the problem worse, not better, by threatening to build a wall and shut down lawful border commerce. I'D like to ask each of you about these issues today. Our first challenge is that vulnerable families and children are arriving in the united states seeking protection from violence and poverty. The administration wants to address this challenge by repealing essential legal protections for children and by reinstituting.

The cruel practice of family separation. I believe this is the wrong approach. Instead, we have to increase the capacity of our backlogged immigration court system. We must ensure that our ports of entrycan accommodate families and children safely, so these vulnerable people are not forced to cross between ports or languish in mexico for months, and we have to do this without separating families and without sacrificing key protections for children. We'Ve seen what family separation, bushes, babies and toddlers crying out for their parents, children and alone in cages. This is contrary to basic american values, and that's why i introduced a bill to prohibit family separation without good cause. This bill now has over fed 40 co-sponsors and i'd like to invite all democrats and republicans to join we've seen that cbp separated thousands of children's from their family and many of these families remain apart today over two yearslater. I'M very pleased that we have witnesses from both cbp and hhs to explain the identification techniques and reunification plans for separated families, but meanwhile, prolonged detention of children has resulted in tragedy. Two children died in cbp custody last winter and just last week an unaccompanied child died, while in the care of hhs congress has provided border patrol with over 400 million dollars to care for children, but the homeland security advisory council still says it's unrealistic to place a Pediatrician at each border station, so i hope you will explain why four hundred million dollars is insufficient to provide an adequate pediatric care. These humanitarian issues to many of us - and i hope a majority ofus - are serious and need solving i'm gon na put mr. chairman, the rest of i know, there's a large audience and many members here, which is just great, because this is important and i'll put the Rest of my statement in the record. Thank you senator feinstein.

It'S now my pleasure to introduce today's witnesses. Our first witness is chief carla provost. She provost as the u. s. border patrol at us and customs and border protection. Before her current position. She served in a number of capacities within the border patrol, including his field operations supervisor in the tucson sector. Chief were patrol agent for the el centro secretary chief patrol agent for the el paso sector and assistant chiefpatrol agent in the yuma sector. Our next witness is mr. todd owen. Mr. owen is currently the executive assistant commissioner in the office of field operations.

This includes managing a budget of 5. 2 billion dollars for operations that cbp's ports of entry and other national security operations prior to his current role at cbp. Mr. owen serves as the director of field operations for the los angeles field office, his responsibilities extended to the greater los angeles area, including the los angeles and las vegas international airports. Our third witness is natalie a sure. This azure currently is the acting executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations for the department of homeland security in this role, she's taskedwith identifying arresting removing those aliens who presented danger to national security or public safety. Prior to her current position, she served in the us army as a russian linguist and military intelligence analyst. Our next witness is mr. jonathan hayes who's currently director of the office of refugee resettlement at the department of health and human services prior to his current role. Mr. hayes serves as chief of staff at ord for joining hhs. Mr.

hayes served as chief of staff to two members of the house of representatives. Our final witness is mr. manny padilla. Mr. padilla is currently the director of the dhs joint task force west, where he is tasked with improving information sharing and coordinationfor cbp and ice from early april. Until last year, director padilla was appointed by the secretary of homeland security to lead the interagency border emergency cell director padilla has also served as sector chief of the border patrol's rio grande valley sector. Thank you all for joining us today and if you would please stand, i will administer the oath. You swear affirm that the testimony you're about to give today is, in truth, the whole truth and nothing, but the truth so help you, god thank you, have a seat. Well, i guess different people hear different messages, but one of the message is that matches, as i hear, is: good luck, you're not going to get anyhelp from congress. It'S all president trump's fault, so you don't have to agree or disagree with what i just said, but i hope you will tell us in an unvarnished and factual way exactly what you are seeing and based on your experience at the border. What congress needs to do? I'M not talking about what president trump needs to do or what anybody else needs to do, but i'm asking you tell us what congress needs to do in order to give you the tools you need in order to do your job chief provost i'll, recognize you first For your opening statement, thank you and good afternoon, chairman cornyn, ranking member durbin and members of the subcommitteei could not be prouder to be here today, representing the men and women of the border patrol. I joined the border patrol nearly 25 years ago because of my strong belief in our border security mission.

I could never have envisioned that today. Agents would spend at least 40 percent of their time as child care professionals, medical caregivers, bus drivers and food service workers. Time and time again, my agents continued to go above and beyond. Just a few weeks ago, agents rescued a three-year-old boy abandoned by smugglers in a cornfield, with only his name and his parents. Phone number written on his shoes agents have rescued more than 2,200 migrants endangered by ruthless smugglers so farthis year, as we sit here today, thousands more are being encouraged to bring or send their children to our border based on smugglers, false promises of a safe and easy Journey our apprehension numbers are off the charts compared to recent years. As of april 30th, we apprehended four hundred and sixty thousand two hundred and ninety four people on the southern border. In the last week, we had our highest single day over 5200 apprehend and our single largest group of 421 illegal aliens as of sunday only seven months into the year. We have now surpassed the total southwest border apprehensions of every fiscal year since 2009. The number of family units and unaccompanied children has skyrocketedto 64 % of southern border apprehensions. So far this year, we've apprehended two hundred and forty-eight thousand one hundred and ninety-seven family unit aliens and forty four thousand seven hundred and seventy nine you acs. These populations present significant challenges, not only because of the additional care they require, but because our immigration system treats them differently than single adults. For the first time in border patrol history, nearly half of the adults we apprehended in april brought children.

They have received the message loud and clear, bring a child. You will be released in april we apprehended an average of 2,400 families and children each day and ice and hhs lacked the capacity to keep up. Since march, 19thborder patrol has been forced to directly release process non criminal family units from locations that are dangerously overcapacity, 33,000 people. To date, though, we are added adding new soft-sided and modular facilities in el paso, rio grande valley and yuma sectors. Our short-term holding facilities are still beyond capacity to address the volume we've detailed agents from the northern and coastal borders and received assistance from our brothers and sisters in ofö. Even with additional manpower, my field commanders have had to pull agents off the border, reduce task force, participation, postpone training and closed checkpoints. We cannot address this crisis by simply shifting more resources or building more facilities. It'S like holding a bucket under a faucet itdoesn't matter. How many buckets you give me if we can't turn off the flow to address the flow of illegal immigration, there must be consequences for illegally crossing the border. I'Ve said before this is both a humanitarian and a border security crisis, but as we focus our resources on the immediate humanitarian we've been forced to put the nation's security at risk. We have apprehended more than 3,500 people with gang affiliation in criminal histories. So far, this fiscal year and assaults on my agents are up.

More than 20 % single adult apprehensions have reached a five-year high one hundred and sixty seven thousand three hundred and eighteen. So far, this fiscal year of the three demographic groupswe have the greatest ability to deliver consequences to single adults, knowing that these individuals seek to actively seek to evade law enforcement. Every agent that i pull off the line to process and care for families and children increases the risk that illegal border crossers will get past us, including those smuggling, drugs and other contraband. We need to know who and what is crossing our border, but that is nearly impossible when our manpower is diverted cocaine seizures this year, a far exceeded last year's total. In january, we seized more than 700 pounds of cocaine being smuggled across the rio grande, while agents were occupied with large groups of families nearby, and i worried how much moreis getting past us simply put. We have been forced to put our border security, and our national security at risk ice is quickly running out of space, to detain adults during their immigration proceedings. My greatest concern is that we will have to begin releasing single adults. We must maintain the ability to deliver consequences or we will lose control of the border. My men and women are doing everything they can to meet this challenge, but border patrol cannot do this alone. Our nation cannot solve today's crisis. Using yesterday's legal framework, this outdated framework has not only tied our hands but has driven hundreds of thousands of people to risk their lives on the dangerous journey. Toour border smuggling organizations have built an entirely new line of business around these families and children.

It'S a high. It is highly lucrative and provides a distraction that helps them cash in on other illicit activities. When my agents are working on the border, they know that smugglers and their scouts are watching their every move. Rest assured they're, watching what we do here in washington and they are banking on inaction. Crisis is the word, so many are now using to describe the border, but now we need more than words it's time to act. Thank you and i look forward to your questions. Thank you, chief. Mr. owen, good afternoon, chairman cornyn ranking member durbin members, ofthe subcommittee, it's my honor to testify before you today on behalf of us customs and border protection's office of field operations, which is responsible for the lawful ports of entry in the united states. My testimony this afternoon will focus specifically on the current situation we are experiencing longer southwest border with mexico, as america's unified border security agency. Cbp has four priority missions: national security, counter-narcotics economic security and a facilitation of lawful trade and travel every day along our southwest border. With mexico over five hundred and thirty-five thousand travelers enter the united states through one of the 42 lawful border crossings each day, two hundred and fifteen thousand privately owned vehicles, 450 commercial buses and 2,100commercial trucks and rail cars arrived from mexico.

Each of these pathways presents different levels of risk to our national security, our public safety and our economic prosperity. The volumes of crossing that we see each day along our southern border, ports of entry, along with outdated and inadequate facilities, presents clear operational challenges for our field. Leadership decisions must be made daily on how best to allocate personnel technology and financial resources to address the risk present in the uncertain environment. In recent months, we haven't seen unprecedented and unsustainable trends in our daily operation that make it more difficult for our officers to carry out their priority missions: undocumented migrants, sometimes traveling in groups numbering in the hundredsare, arriving at southwest border crossings seeking to make entry. The majority are family units and unaccompanied alien children, many of them claiming fear of returning to their countries of origin. The sheer numbers presenting themselves at the port's have exceeded our processing and temporary detention capacity. Why diverting our officers away from other duties, such as narcotics, interdiction and facilitating lawful trade in travel, and let me be clear, our officers are committed to processing each individual in a humane and efficient manner, but the current border, security and humanitarian crisis at our southwest border Has ripple effects that impact the entire nation at the end of march, we reassigned 545 cbp officers from throughout the country from airportsseaports southwest border and the northern border to support our border patrol colleagues this week, as the crisis continues unabated, the border patrol has asked for An additional 186 officers to assist for a total of 731 cbp officers pulled from the ports of entry. The temporary reassignment of cbp officers to assist the border patrol is absolutely necessary, as we must help the patrol as they respond to the record high level of illegal crossings and apprehensions. But the reassignment of officers from the ports of entry to the border patrol facilities comes with consequences. Pedestrian passenger vehicle commercial truck crossings trying to cross the border are experiencing uncharacteristically long delays. Some ports of entry have been forced, toclose some travel lanes and curtail some huichol weekend. Cargo processing hours as officers are pulled from ports nationwide.

We may begin to experience extended, wait times and our airports and northern border as we head into the busy summer travel season. The negative impacts extend beyond the facilitation of trade and travel. More concerning to me is the impact we are seen on. Our narcotics interdiction efforts on the southwest border ports of entry at the ports of entry, our seizures of hard narcotics like heroin and fentanyl. So far in fy 19 aren't down we're seeing significant increases between the ports. As the border patrol agents are directed to assist with the humanitarian crisis in fy, 17 whencrossings of undocumented migrants were at forty year lows. We experienced a 34 percent increase in hard narcotics seizures along our southwest border over the previous year. Each officer, an agent pulled off the front line to process, detain and care for undocumented migrants, has a direct impact on cbp's interdiction of hard narcotics flowing into our communities. This fact must not be lost, which is why the current migration situation along the southwest border must be viewed as not only a humanitarian crisis but a national security crisis as well. I appreciate the support congress has offered our men and women on the front lines. I look forward to your questions. Thank you.

Thank you, mr. owen. Mr. chairmancornyn ranking member durbin and distinguished members of the subcommittee, my name is natalie asher and i am the acting executive associate director for u. s. immigration and customs enforcement enforcement and removal operations as a career law enforcement officer. With more than two decades of experience. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the current humanitarian and security crisis at the national at the southern border, as well as isis critical mission of protecting the homeland and ensuring the integrity of our nation's immigration system through the enforcement of our immigration Laws today, unprecedented numbers of migrants continue to illegally cross the border or present themselves at ports of entry without documentation. These numbers are onthe rise, straining our entire immigration system, stretching resources thin across the department of homeland security and causing ice to balance its public safety mission. In the interior of the united states with the influx of migrants at the border in the past, the vast majority of illegal migrants were single male adults from in mexico who could be quickly and effectively returned beginning with the initial surge in fy 2014. There has been a significant increase in the arrival of both family units and unaccompanied alien children across the southern border, a trend which continues with no end in sight now over 60 percent of those seeking to cross the border, our family units and you acs most ofwhom - Are from guatemala, honduras and el salvador? In fact, since december 21st, 2018 ice has released approximately one hundred and sixty eight thousand family members directly into the new united states, as current laws and court rulings essentially mandate. The immediate release of these family members, many of whom are never heard from again these family units and uac, add to our already overburdened immigration system and contribute to the growing immigration court backlog, which has now surpassed 800,000 k.

Two of isis greatest challenges are limited detention, beds for adults and the inability to detain family units for the length of time necessary for their cases to be decided in large part due to the flores settlement, agreementand judicial decisions that interpret it. The record numbers of cvp apprehensions at the border impact our interior enforcement efforts, because congressional funding limits the number of adult beds available to ice. Since many recent border crossers are subject to mandatory detention under the immigration and nationality act, their arrival leaves a limited detention capacity for those who are arrested in the interior of the country, including those with criminal records. Additionally, since ice can typically only hold family units for approximately twenty days due to the flores and the judicial judicial decisions interpreting it most, members of this population remain non detained with little or no oversight. Although ice has sought to deal with the rapid increase in thispopulation through additional strategies such as the alternatives to detention program, this has proven ineffective and the management of recently arriving aliens as abscond or rates are much higher for this group, most of whom have no existing Ties to the community and may not know their final geographic destination, ultimately without the necessary authority to enable ice to detain family units for the duration of their immigration proceedings. Without the proper ability to hold those accountable who fail to comply with a td or release conditions. And without sufficient resources to apprehend those who have scanned, this situation will result in virtual impunity for those who violate our immigration laws and the flow of aliens into the united stateswill continue, if not increase. Unfortunately, the release of family units before the conclusion of immigration proceedings has led to these individuals failing to appear for court hearings as well as failing to comply with removal orders. Additionally, legislation like the trafficking victims, protection reauthorization act has left gaps in our immigration laws that are exploited by transnational criminal organizations and human smugglers. These gaps encourage parents to send their children on the dangerous journey north and we have found that they incentivize smugglers to place children into the hands of adult strangers so that they can pose as families and be released from immigration custody. Fraudulent family claims are a significant problem and dhs must have the ability toprotect the best interest in welfare of minors involved in potential smuggling or trafficking situations. The record numbers of aliens arriving at our border indicate that these gaps have created an enormous pull factor.

Amendments to the laws and immigration court processes that i have outlined in my written testimony are needed to help ensure the successful repatriation of aliens ordered removed by an immigration judge. Now more than ever, ice must have the necessary authorities to ensure the safe and successful repatriation of persons who have had their day in court and been ordered removed in accordance with our immigration laws. Without the necessary funding and legislative changes. The integrity of our immigration system will continue to be underminedthank you again and for your support of ice, and i welcome your questions. Thank you. Mr. mr. hayes chairman cornyn ranking member durbin and members of the subcommittee, it is my honor to appear on behalf of the department of health and human services. My name is jonathan hayes and, as the director of the office of refugee resettlement, i manage the unaccompanied alien children program. I became the permanent director earlier this year and it is a privilege to serve in this role alongside our dedicated orr career staff. Prior to my time at orr, i worked for two congressional members for approximately eight years that experience provided me with firsthand knowledge of the important oversight, role, thatyou and your staff have to ensure that the federal programs operate successfully. As i manage the program, my goals are to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in orr s, care and a manner that is consistent with the law and to make decisions that are in the best interest of each child or our facilities offer a variety Of placement setting options such as foster care and group homes, these options allow our to accommodate each child's unique circumstances when deciding where to place a child.

U ac, shelters provide housing, nutrition, routine, medical care, mental health services, educational services and recreational activities. A network of grantees operate the facilities which are licensed by state authoritiesthe exception is orr s. Temporary hard-sided influx care facility in homestead florida. That facility is not required to abstain, obtain state licensure. However, children who recited this location received the same standard of care and services as those provided by a permanent state licensed facility. As of march 30th of this year, dhhs has already referred: approximately thirty two thousand two hundred and eighty four unaccompanied children to orr. If this rate continues in fiscal year, 2019 orr will care for the largest number of unaccompanied children in the program's history, based on the anticipated growth pattern and referrals, hhs is preparing for the need for high bed capacity to continue. Currently hhs maintains approximately fourteen thousand beds. Onmay 1st, the administration transmitted to congress a supplemental request for an additional 2. 9 billion dollars for hhs, which would enable orr to increase shelter capacity to twenty three thousand six hundred beds without additional funding. There is a significant likelihood that the uac program will exhaust all of its resources by this june, in which case hhs may need to reallocate more funds from refugees and victims of torture and scale-back services. In the worst-case scenario, thousands of children might remain for lengthy periods of time and dhs facilities, rather than being expeditiously transferred to hhs in an effort to improve coordination and information.

Sharing, hhs and dhs have entered into two agreements over the past year, first inapril 20, 1889. Random of agreement, the agreement requires ice and cbp to provide orr with information pertaining to gang membership and criminal history. Second, in july of 2018, o our our published a joint concept of operations with d ches to address overlapping responsibilities. The jco covers existing policies, procedures and protocols related to transportation, processing and the care of unaccompanied children. Since june 2018, when the president issued executive order 138 41 and the us district court for the southern district of california issued its orders in the micelle case, hhs staff have worked tirelessly to reunify children separated from their parents in order to identify all possible children. In the micelle class, hhs conducted a rigorous forensicdata review to identify indicators of potential separation for every child in orr care. As of june 26 2018, through its exhaustive data review, hhs identified 2814 children of potential class members of the 2814 children reported to the micelle court. Orr has reunified 2162 children with their parents. Another 597 children have left. Oh our our care through other appropriate discharges such as they released to a sponsor who is a family member. Further review found that 9 children had not been separated and for the remaining children, some cannot be reunified with their parent, because orr has determined that the parent meets the criteria for exclusion from the class or is not eligible for unification. In addition, someparents have waived reunification.

On april 25th 2019, the court approved the government's proposed plan to identify the children who were referred to and discharged from our custody between july 1, 2017 and june 25th 2018 and who were separated by dhs from their parents. At some point in the process, that plan is underway now and we anticipate meeting the courts deadline within six months. In conclusion, the uac program provides quality care and services to unaccompanied children. Every day, oh, are ours. Work is driven by child welfare principles. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our important work and i will be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Thank you chairman. Thank you, mr. trace mr. padilla, chairman cornyn, ranking member durbin and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is manuel padilla jr.

and i am the director of the joint task force west. That'S part of the department of homeland security, southern border and approaches campaign. I was born on the us-mexico border and grew up in a border community. I joined the border patrol when i was 20 years of age and have been working at different levels and locations along the border for more than 32 years now. I know the southwest border from a personal and professional perspective. Throughout the years i have seen illegal immigration and cross-border crime evolvedextensively. I have seen large numbers of illegal migrants and narcotics traffickers crossing the border highway into u. s. neighborhoods and schools in el paso in 1993. I have seen the horrific aftermath of cartel violence as criminal groups battle for control in certain parts of the border. I have seen people that criminal organizations have brutally beaten or left behind to die. I have seen migrants thrown into the rio grande to distract pursuing agents.

However, i have never seen the conditions that we are currently experiencing on the southwest border. The influx of family units and unaccompanied children has increased exponentially, cbp is holding facilities and isis detention facilities are beyond capacity. Officers and agents are stretched to theirlimit. Today, we are contending with an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis, and a crisis situation demands a crisis response. On april 2nd 2019 former dhs secretary neilson created the interagency border emergency cell or the i bec. The purpose of the of the ipek was to coordinate the government's resource response to the crisis on the border. This is not without precedent. Dhs will often stand up coordination cells in times of disaster, such as respond to a hurricane or a wildfire. The analogy between the migration crisis and a hurricane is not far off. Both creates significant humanitarian demands, including food and shelter, both require a whole-of-government approach and both have wide-ranging effects outside the immediate pointof impact. In the case of migration, that includes increased wait times for legitimate trade and travel and an overall degradation of our national security mission. I was selected to lead the department's resource coordination efforts in addressing this crisis.

Our first order of business was to get resources down to the front line that included transportation, health and medical, food, water and shelter resources, as well as security and legal resources. We began by looking internally at our resources within the department of homeland security. We instantly call for volunteers within the department to deploy to the southwest border to help our frontline officers and agents. There are a number of loved non-law enforcement roles for volunteers to playfrom driving transportation vehicles to preparing food and caring for children and every role filled by a volunteer helps us get badges back to the border. We also looked beyond dhs and to the interagency for support. For example, we reached out to the us marshal service and federal bureau of prisons to help provide vehicles for our transportation needs. We also asked the department of defense for support in the form of lawyers, drivers and general purpose to assist in other areas. It is critical to understand that the ipek coordination of resources is focused on managing the crisis that the men and women are in. The frontlines are dealing with in a heroic manner. Unfortunately, these resourceswill not mitigate the increase in flow of migrants that is causing the crisis. In other words, these are band-aid fixes to a worsening situation. The eye beck was not intended to exist in perpetuity.

We are transitioning. Our miss to the dhs joint incident advisory group. We were simply the start of the necessary all-hands-on-deck response to the migration crisis on our southwest border. There is one very, very important difference between this crisis and a hurricane hurricanes. End and recovery can then begin with a migration crisis. There is no end in sight. Our country's existing legal framework will continue to draw massive numbers of migrants from central america and other parts of the world. We do nothave the facilities to shelter them. Nor is there an efficient way to return them to their respective countries. This is until our laws change. The hurricane will continue on until there's fundamental change to our laws. The only one who can stop the storm is the congress of the united states, and i implore the men and women of this subcommittee to acknowledge the crisis and take action.

Thank you for your time and i look forward to your questions. Thank you, mr. padilla. We'Ll do five minute rounds of questions for the witnesses chief provost a couple of weeks ago. The new york times ran a story about a three-year-old child, unaccompanied by an adult that the borderpatrol found at the border. What why in the world would have how in the world would a three-year-old child make their way from central america to the us-mexico border, and why would anybody send them? Why would any parent or family members send them unaccompanied to the united states? Thank you for the question senator yes, that was a that's a tough case, and the young man is in is in good care with hhs now, and we made sure that we got him new clothes and he was watching movies at the station, but that one was A tough one to see him abandoned out in a cornfield. The smugglers, as i said, are this is illicit businessfor them they're, making money off of this. They are pushing family saying that they can either get the families or they can get their children here, and these smugglers know that, under under the flores decision, the us government can't hold a child in detention longer than 20 days. Correct. That is correct and from interviews that we have done with the families that we have been apprehending, they are hearing that message loud and clear, they're hearing that from the smugglers, they're hearing it through media down in the northern triangle as well. So, therefore, and and they don't understand the risk in the dangers that the trip is going to bring - i don't believe well, let's talkabout, that a minute. You know how many children are sent from central america to the united states who die in rome.

We have, as you know, senator we rescue and we've rescued over 2,200. We have seen numerous deaths, the ones who make it that's correct order correct. So we have also come across numerous individuals that are deceased. That being said, that does not account for those that died along the way. How about the women and children wh.

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