(CNSNews.com) – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday that at the rate that illegal immigrant family units have entered the U.S. in the last 30 days, they will more than double last year’s record number of family units.
“At the border, we face changing trends in illegal crossings that impact security, exploit our laws and challenge our resources and personnel. To put this aspect of our mission in context, one day of crossings, last Monday, December 3rd highlights the trends that we are confronting,” McAleenan said in his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“On that day, we saw the highest numbers of arrivals at our southwest border in years – 3,029 illegal entries in inadmissible persons arrived at our border last Monday. Eighty-five percent of them crossed illegally. CBP apprehended or encountered 1,731 members of family groups and 350 unaccompanied children,” he said.
“This means that the illegal crossings and inadmissibles last Monday included over 1,100 children in a single day. This snapshot is emblematic of the steady trends that we’ve been seeing for many months - increasing crossings overall with a dramatic surge in a percentage of family units and a growing proportion of central Americans coming to our border,” McAleenan added.
“More broadly for the last 30 days, we’ve seen over 2,000 unlawful entries between ports and undocumented arrivals at ports of entry each day. Over 1,070 family members are arriving on a consistent basis. To put this in perspective, we’ll more than double last year’s record number of family units at this rate,” he said.
McAleenan also addressed the notion that the current numbers are lower than historical peaks and that some have concluded that there is no crisis. On the contrary, he said, “it is indeed both a border security and a humanitarian crisis.”
“I’ve heard a number of commentators observe that even at these levels, the numbers we are seeing are lower than historical peaks and as a result, there suggests that we are seeing at the borders today is not a crisis. I fundamentally disagree with this assessment. From the experience of our agents and officers on the ground, it is indeed both a border security and a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
“What many looking at the total numbers fail to understand is the difference in what is happening now in terms of who is crossing, the risks that they are facing in the journey and the consequences for our system,” the commissioner said.
“First, up until this decade, most of those crossing the border illegally were single adult males. Now the majority crossing are family units and unaccompanied children. This was fewer than 10 percent up until the year 2012 – 59 percent of crossings last month were families and unaccompanied children,” he said.
The commissioner said illegal immigrants from Central America crossing the border have surpassed those from Mexico.
“Second, migration from Mexico remains at historically low levels while the majority of illegal border crossings now come from three countries in Central America: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Central America has now exceeded Mexican migration four out of the last five years and reached 70 percent of crossings last month,” he said.
“November was the first month in recorded history where more people arrived from another country than Mexico, with Guatemala exceeding Mexico by 3,000. The third major trend is a dramatic increase in claims of fears of return or asylum claims. Between 2000 and 2013, fewer than one percent of those encountered at our border claimed asylum,” McAleenan said.
“Last year at ports of entry, the number of asylum claims more than doubled to 38,269. Nearly 31 percent of those deemed inadmissible at ports of entry claimed asylum,” he added.
The commissioner credited the “increases in demographic changes in crossings” to vulnerabilities in immigration law which are “well-known to smugglers and migrants.”
“These weaknesses in our laws now represent the most significant factors impacting border security, and they include the asylum gap where approximately 80 percent of individuals meet the initial credible fear bar in the asylum process while only 10 to 20 percent are found to have valid asylum claims at the end of their immigration court proceedings,” McAleenan added.