(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that 600,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended in fiscal year 2019 – twice what it was the year before.
“The numbers are overwhelming. In fiscal year 2019, from October ‘til now, we’ve had 600,000 people apprehended at the southern border. In all of 2018 fiscal year, it was 300,000, so we’ve doubled all of 2018, and we’ve still got months to go,” Graham said, pointing to a chart illustrating border apprehensions.
“And as you can see from the chart here, there’s been 135 percent increase of apprehensions at the southwest border, 74 percent increase in unaccompanied minors, 463 (percent) increase in family units. That doesn’t include everybody. When you include everybody, it’s 144,278 in May alone. The total in FY’19 is 676,315, which is double of what we did in 2018, so somebody needs to ask the question why,” he said.
According to statistics provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 593,507 illegal immigrants were apprehended on the southwest border apprehensions through May 2019. In fiscal year 2018, there were 396,579 apprehensions in total.
Graham showed an advertisement detailing how much smugglers charge to smuggle people from Mexico into the United States.
“Now this is the Spanish language advertisement. This is how it looks translated in English. ‘How much does it cost to cross the border?’” Graham said.
“In 2016, it was $3,000 to 8,000. In 2017, it’s $8,000 to 16,000 walking through the mountains. If you take a boat, it’s gone from $10,000 to 20,000. Small plane $16,000 to 30,000. A vehicle utilizing documents belonging to another person is $20,000 to 25,000. Vehicle utilizing an accomplice immigrant agent is $20,000 to 25,000. The market shows the demand is increased. The prices are going up, and people are going through hell to get here, dealing with smugglers in every known fashion,” he said.
Graham said the solution is for Congress to close the loopholes being exploited by smugglers, and he has introduced the Secure and Protect Act (S.1494) to do just that. He said the bill calls for the hiring of 500 new immigration judges to deal with the 900,000-person backlog in asylum claims.
“So the bottom line is until we change our laws in two areas, this never stops, and that’s the purpose of this hearing. As to what President Trump was able to negotiate with Mexico, I think it will help, but I do not believe it’s an adequate substitution for us working together in the Congress with the Trump administration to change the laws that create the magnet. And here are the laws that we need to change, and this is the bill that I have introduced, and I hope we can get bipartisan support for it,” Graham said.
“Right now if you come to America, and you claim asylum, you’re entitled to a hearing. That hearing is years away. Contrary to what people tell you, most people do not show up for their hearing. We don’t have the bed space to hold people, so we dump them out into the country,” he said.
“If you bring a small child with you, since we don’t want to separate families, under the Flores decision, we’ve got 20 days to process the claim. We don’t have bed space to hold all the families, so we turn them loose by the thousands,” Graham added.
Graham’s bill requires people to apply for asylum in their home country or even Mexico.
“So what am I trying to do? I’m trying to say for a period of time here to have a time-out under the current system, and say that if you’re from Central America, you can apply for asylum for the United States, but you have to do it in your country at one of our embassies or consulates, and we’ll trying to set up a facility where you can go over to Mexico where you can go over to Mexico to apply for asylum in the United States, but you no longer can do it at our border or in our country,” he said. “If you change that, I think 90 percent of this would stop.
“As to the Flores decision, we’re trying to give 100 days to process family units with a small child. Just can’t get it done in 20 days, and equally important, we’re going to allow sending back unaccompanied minors from Central America as if they came from Mexico or Canada. Since these are non-contiguous countries, we don’t have the ability to send unaccompanied minors back, and we’d like to change that,” Graham said.
He said getting the word out in Central America that immigrants can no longer apply for asylum in the U.S. would be “a deathblow to the smugglers.” So would getting the word out that if you bring a small child with you, it’s no longer a guaranteed stay in the U.S., he said.
The chairman said “all the money in the world” won’t fix the problem in Central America “as long as you can get to the United States and not be sent back.” He said the goal is to improve life in Central America and “give people hope in their own country.”
Graham said a wall will not fix the problem.
“The only way a wall would fix this problem is to build it in Mexico so they never step a foot in the United States, but once you put one foot in the United States and you claim asylum, we have a major dysfunctional system,” he said.