DHS: CBP Saw 315% Increase in Illegals Using Children to Gain Entry to US

Melanie Arter | May 30, 2018 | 4:58pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) - An official with the Department of Homeland Security told reporters Tuesday that in the first five months of fiscal year 2018, Customs and Border Protection saw a 315 percent increase in illegals using children to gain entry to the U.S. as family units compared to the prior fiscal year.

“In the first five months of fiscal year ‘18, CBP saw a 315 percent increase in individuals using children to pose as family units to gain entry into the country compared to fiscal year ’17. Smugglers and drug traffickers know the loopholes well, and they know that if they reach our borders, they will be released into our country and evade the consequences of their criminal action,” Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary of DHS, said.

Fiscal year 2018 began on Oct. 1, 2017 and ends on Sept. 30, 2018. That means that from Oct. 2017 to February 2018, there were 315 percent more illegals than last fiscal year using children to try to gain entry to the U.S. as family units.

“The bottom line is that if you break the law, there will be consequences,” Hoffman said. DHS is no longer “exempting classes of individuals from enforcement.”

“If members of Congress do not like the laws they pass, they need to change them. They should not ask DHS to look the other way. They should not ask DHS to abdicate our oath to enforce the law,” he said.

The United States also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of asylum claims during the Obama administration, Hoffman said.

“We had an increase in asylum claims by 1700 percent from 2008 to 2016. We have seen the backlog explode to over 300,000 cases for asylum,” he said.

Of the unaccompanied children (UACs) placed with the Department of Health and Human Services, “only five of those children were actually removed from the country,” Hoffman said. He said the majority of removal orders DHS sees are for those who don’t show up for immigration hearings.

“Ninety percent of the removal orders that we see and we actually institute are based solely on a failure to show up for the hearing themselves. This is a crisis. We’re seeing the numbers increase, and we are taking steps to address those, and one of the things we’re doing is we’re prosecuting every person who enters the country illegally,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman addressed false reports that the Trump administration was keeping illegal minors in metal cages, advanced by Democrats who tweeted photos of children housed during the Obama administration. President Donald Trump also addressed the issue on Tuesday.

"Democrats mistakenly tweet 2014 pictures from Obama’s term showing children from the Border in steel cages. They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires. Dems must agree to Wall and new Border Protection for good of country...Bipartisan Bill!" Trump tweeted Tuesday.

“DHS takes seriously its responsibility to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal action. While ensuring that our immigration laws are enforced, DHS has continued the previous administration’s policy and will separate alien minor children from an adult for his or her protection or in cases where the adult or custodian has been referred for criminal prosecution. This is a policy that has not changed from the prior administration,” Hoffman said.

“And while the previous administration did little to screen those seeking to sponsor unaccompanied alien children, DHS and HHS are in the final stages of implementing a new agreement on robust information-sharing so that such potential sponsors are thoroughly and systemically screen for the protection of the children,” he added.

Hoffman said the administration’s job “is made more difficult by Congress’s continued failure to address debilitating loopholes in our immigration laws.”

“As a result of some of these loopholes, we continue to see too many cases of children being used by smugglers, traffickers and transnational criminal organizations in an attempt to circumvent our laws and gain entry to the United States,” he said.

Hoffman complained that the U.S. immigration system “is clearly being gamed by those who are aware of the loopholes and shortcomings.”

“Specifically, the four loopholes that many of you are aware: the Flores settlement agreement, the TVPRA, the Zavydas ruling, and asylum, the asylum provision, as well as the fact that there does not exist bars in our law to prevent us, to deem people inadmissible based on gang affiliation or from foreign countries,” he said.

Under the Flores Settlement Agreement, DHS can only detain unaccompanied minors for 20 days before turning them over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which places them in foster care or shelters until they can find a sponsor, according to DHS.

In 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the Flores settlement agreement. The court affirmed a district court’s order granting a motion by the plaintiff, Jenny Lisette Flores, to enforce a 1997 settlement, which set a nationwide policy for the detention, release, and treatment of minors detained in the custody of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). It also required that unaccompanied minors be given a bond hearing.

The Zadyvas ruling, decided on July 28, 2001 by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, held that an illegal alien, who has been ordered removed from the country and is not able to be repatriated, should not be detained beyond a reasonable time beyond the 90-day removal period.

TVPRA stands for Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Passed in 2008, TVPRA strengthened federal trafficking laws, adding provisions that govern the rights of unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. It was reauthorized in 2013.

TVPRA stipulates that UACs who are not from Mexico or Canada are exempt from prompt return to their home country. The administration wants to amend TVPRA so that the time period to file asylum claims for UACs are limited to one year, which is consistent with other asylum applicants, and so that these cases are only heard in immigration court.

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