(CNSNews.com) – Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 664,000 illegal aliens on the border so far this year, which represents “a nearly 140 percent increase compared to the same time frame last year,” Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations for Border Patrol, told Congress Wednesday.
“Just three weeks into the month, we’ve already surpassed the apprehension level for every June since 2007, Hastings said in his opening testimony for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on migrants at the southern border.
He said smugglers endanger the lives of migrants, controlling where and how they cross the border.
“In the Del Rio sector alone, Border Patrol rescues have risen from 44 individuals all of last year to over 400 so far this year. Smugglers are often placing children in nothing more than makeshift raft or on pool toys to cross the dangerous Rio Grande River. On multiple occasions, smugglers have pushed adults and children out of these rafts knowing that agents would prioritize the preservation of life while the smugglers swim back to Mexico to evade arrest,” he said.
“So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol agents have rescued more than 3400 people in distress along the border and saved nearly 2500 people crammed into tractor trailers. Earlier this month, agents freed 14 people from a locked and unventilated trailer compartment than measured 124 degrees. All of these people paid smugglers to bring them into this country and nearly paid with their lives. Others were not so fortunate,” Hastings said.
“This past weekend in the Rio Grande Valley, they mounted an extensive search effort when subjects reported that they had left several children who had died just north of the border. Sadly, on Sunday night, agents recovered the bodies of three children and one adult in the thick brush. Unfortunately, I know that these will not be the last tragic deaths that we encounter,” he said.
Hastings said the Border Patrol “has made significant investments in humanitarian care, including consumables, soft-sided facilities, medical support, and transportation.” The agency has also “requested additional funds for this purpose in the supplemental as well,” he said. CBP had to divert manpower away from border security to processing migrants due to the high level of apprehensions.
“Since we began direct releasing non-processed, criminal family units on March 19th, we have significantly reduced the time families spend in our custody after processing. With more than 96,000 family members released so far, this currently represents over 60 percent of the apprehensions, but only about 25 percent of those in custody. Together with our partners, we have reduced the number of people in Border Patrol custody from the peak of 19,000 in May to 12,000 to 13,000 today,” Hastings said.
He expressed concern in particular with single adults and unaccompanied children spending extended time in custody. He said their facilities are not designed for long-term custody.
“I cannot stress enough the immediate impact that funding for ICE and HHS bed space would have on the Border Patrol’s in-custody population – for both numbers and the duration,” Hastings said.
“In the immediate term, we need Congress to provide supplemental funds requested by CBP and our partners, but the funding will only do so much without a long-term fix. I urge Congress to pass legislative changes that we have repeatedly requested to stop the draw of UACs and families,” he concluded.