McAleenan: 'We Still Need Congress to Act'

Susan Jones | June 10, 2019 | 4:58am EDT
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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan (Photo: Screen capture)

( - Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan says the massive flow of Central Americans and others into the United States from Mexico is not going to stop "without coordinated efforts from Mexico" and changes in U.S. law.

"But also, we still need Congress to act," McAleenan told "Fox News Sunday."

"We still need help both on the fundamental legal loopholes and the framework, but also on funding, to manage this situation that you heard about from CBP."

McAleenan called for "three specific changes in law."

One, we are not able to detain families through an immigration proceeding. We have to release them within 20 days by court order. That needs to change. Families can be held together in an appropriate setting for a fair and transparent hearing, and then they can be repatriated if they don't have an asylum claim, that's one.

Two, we want to be able to repatriate unaccompanied children, just like we do in Mexico and Canada, even if they're from Central America or further away, but also offer children a safe way to apply for asylum in country. That's a balanced policy that we'd like to implement.

And three, we need to change the asylum standard so that that front bar that where we sign credible fear is not so automatic, so that 85-90 percent of people get that while only 10 percent get asylum at the end of the court proceeding. We need to align that more closely with what it might actually be a successful claim.

Host Bret Baier noted that investigations have found "dangerous overcrowding and unsanitary conditions" at immigration processing facilities along the southwest border.

"That's absolutely the case," McAleenan said.

"I testified to that in December of last year and since then, we've more than doubled the number of crossings. I went down March 27th and said we have a crisis, that we are at the breaking point at the border, we don't have room for the people arriving.

“We asked Congress five and a half weeks ago for supplemental funding to manage this overcrowding concern and get Health and Human Services the money they need to take on unaccompanied children expeditiously. We have seen no action on those requests.”

McAleenan said while the border influx "is a crisis," on which the Department of Homeland Security is focused. But that's not all the Department needs to worry about:

"So, DHS is a multi-mission department. And we've got to stay on our toes preparing for hurricane season. I was with the vice president in Oklahoma looking at the disaster and FEMA's response on Tuesday from the flooding,” McAleenan said.

“We have to do it all. We had a big election security set of briefings on Friday, and we're going to maintain momentum there.

“But this is a crisis, and a crisis means that management time and leadership effort has to be focused on that. We're getting good support from across the cabinet and, obviously, the president of the United States is dialed in and focused on this issue every single day and trying to make sure that we can secure that border and change this dynamic."

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