(CNSNews.com) - Foreigners -- many of them unaccompanied children and family units, and most of them from Central America, are streaming into the United States illegally in ever-increasing numbers.
On Wednesday, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told the Senate Judiciary Committee that changes in the law -- particularly the rules requiring the quick release of illegal aliens into the interior of the country -- would make a big difference.
"There are solutions to this crisis," McAleenan said.
He mentioned U.S. support for poverty-stricken Central American countries and working with the Mexican government to address transnational criminal organizations. "And we must invest in border security -- a modern border barrier system; additional agents and officers; additional technology at and between ports of entry; and air and marine support."
"All of these steps will make a significant difference," McAleenan said. "However, Mr. Chairman, in order to ensure a lasting and meaningful change at the border, we must also confront and address the vulnerabilities in our legal framework."
Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked McAleenan, "If you had a choice of...changing the laws and money for barriers or anything else, what would be your top priority?"
"I believe we need both, Mr. Chairman," McAleenan said. "But the immediate impact -- 63 percent of our traffic at the border would be addressed by a change in the laws."
Graham repeated: "Change in law affects 63 percent of the problem."
McAleenan said unaccompanied minors from Central America who make it to the United States have a "less than two percent" chance of ever being returned to their home countries. "It's very rare," he said, and that's because of a legal agreement known as the Flores settlement.
Under that ruling, both unaccompanied children and children coming north with a relative must be released into the interior of the United States within 20 days of being detained.
McAleenan said smugglers are "actively advertising" that if they bring a child to the United States, that child will be released.
In February alone, a total of 76,103 illegal aliens were either apprehended (66,450) or deemed inadmissible (9,653) at the Southwest border, the largest monthly total in 12 years.
Of the 66,450 illegal aliens apprehended between ports of entry in February, 6,825 were unaccompanied children; and 36,174 were family units.
"We have now apprehended or encountered more families in just five months and five days than last year's record total," McAleenan said.