“Eighty-seven percent of those are still here in [court] proceedings because we have no final orders,” said Tom Homan, executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testifying Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee.
An HHS official today confirmed that an unaccompanied minor being housed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was hospitalized and diagnosed with H1N1, or swine flu, which is contagious. The official, calling it an isolated case, said the child is responding to treatment and being monitored.
As politicians on both sides point fingers – the title of yesterday’s House hearing, “An Administration-Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors,” spoke to that – border officials charged with managing the crisis say the facts on the ground are more clear.
“Only one thing can end the frenzy of law-breaking at the border – an end to the ‘catch-and-release policy’ for illegal-alien juveniles,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, has said, adding, “Every illegal alien caught at the border must be detained until his hearing, so that word gets back to Central America that it’s no longer worth making the trip.”
President Obama has added capacity to process and place the border crossers, directing Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson to coordinate assistance from various sections of the government, including HHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Coast Guard. Even so, officials at the border say, they face a shortage of manpower.
Officials, based on recorded interviews with the children, can’t definitively declare a reason for the surge. But those who testified said misinformation about current U.S. immigration law and the prospect of amnesty for illegal immigrants have been motivators.
“Reports from ICE officers and agents on the ground corroborate reports that the majority are motivated more by rumors of amnesty than the situation in their countries,” said Chris Crane, president of National ICE Council 118 of the American Federation of Government Employees. The union leader added, “Impoverished countries don’t read our laws or read cut-off dates. This crisis is putting a tremendous strain on ICE ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] and its limited manpower and resources nationwide.”
Altogether, the border surge brings circumstances different than years past. This batch of border crossers likely don’t have criminal intentions, officials addressing the surge said, because they don’t try to be elusive. They come, rather, because they know they can stay.