By Jon Dougherty
The number of people being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reached an all-time high of 50,000 as migrants from Central America and Mexico continue to stream towards the United States, deepening the humanitarian crisis.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified to a Democrat-controlled House this week that the federal government and, specifically, her border agencies, are fast running out of resources to deal with the rising numbers of migrants as well as space to detain them. But while some Republicans offered encouraging or sympathetic words, Democrats seemed unfazed.
In reporting the latest figures provided by the government,Â The Daily BeastÂ reported:
Itâ€™s an increase of approximately 2,000 people in the month-plus since Jan. 30, when ICE, it previously told The Daily Beast, was detainingÂ 48,088Â people. And itâ€™s just another 2,000 people shy of the 52,000-person daily detentions ICE is asking Congress to fund in its next budget.
Asked what accounts for the increase, ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in a statement: â€œICE makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy, considering the merits and factors of each case while adhering to current agency priorities, guidelines and legal mandates. Ensuring there are sufficient beds available to meet the current demand for detention space is crucial to the success of ICEâ€™s overall mission.â€
During testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Nielsen was clear in that a humanitarian crisis exists along the border and that Congress needs to change laws in order to deal with the continued influx, lest migrants continue making the dangerous and expensive journey to the U.S.
â€œWhat we hear from the Northern Triangle governments â€“ they have said this publicly. I am sure that they will tell you when you visit them â€“ is they want their children back,â€ she told lawmakers.
â€œOur laws uniquely allow us to send Mexican children back home after they have gone through a process, do not have a legal right to stay, but under the law, we cannot send children from other countries back, except for Mexico and Canada,â€ she added.
â€œSo the Northern Triangle governments have said to us â€“ they will say to you â€“ â€˜please send us our children back. We want them reunited with our families and communities here,â€ the DHS chief continued.
â€œWe donâ€™t want the smugglers to be able to convince parents to send their children on this perilous journey where they are absolutely victims of violence and abuse.â€
Meanwhile, Democrats remained committed to resisting POTUS Trump’s emergency declaration, which he declared, in part, to free up money — from the Pentagon and other places — to begin building sections of a border wall in locations where federal immigration officials have said more physical barriers are needed.
Left-wing groups, meanwhile, decried the number of detainees ICE is holding.
â€œTo see ICE jailing more than 50,000 immigrants each dayâ€“itâ€™s a tragic milestone,â€ Heidi Altman, policy director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, told The Daily Beast.
â€œThis mass deprivation of liberty and dignity is unnecessary and continues to play out in dangerous ways. Inside the jails people are enduring overcrowding, food consistently described as foul and meager in calories, solitary confinement as punishment for a misplaced word, and more. An expansion this quick and this reckless risks lives,” she added — without a hint of irony since migrants are currently in federal custody not because ICE went looking for them but because they chose to try to break into the U.S.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol officials say their field agents are discovering migrants who are coming from all over the world,Â CNSNews reported.
Rodolfo Karisch, chief of the U.S. Border Patrolâ€™s Rio Grande Valley Sector,Â told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability on Thursday, that agents in his sector have intercepted illegal aliens trying to enter the United States â€œfrom 40 different countries, including Bangladesh, Turkey, Romania, and China.â€
â€œI want to provide some perspective on the challenges facing our men and women at the Southwest border,â€ Karisch told the committee in his opening statement. â€œThough I cannot speak for all of the components of Customs and Border Protection, I can provide a first-hand account of the complex border-security environment and ask for your assistance in helping our frontline men and women.
â€œThe majority of the apprehensions are family units and unaccompanied children from Central America, and many travel in large groups of a hundred or more,â€ Karisch continued.
â€œIn addition to the high volume of Central Americans, we encounter people from all over the world, many of whom donâ€™t want to be caught,â€ he said. â€œContrast this incoming tide of migrants with our limited resources and infrastructure at the Southwest border, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley and Tucson Sector.â€
In an interview with Dallas Morning News, Joe Romero, a veteran U.S. Border Patrol agent, said,Â â€œWhatâ€™s weâ€™re seeing is something I havenâ€™t seen in at least 10 years.”
He demurred when asked if what he was seeing is an “emergency,” but since he’s a line agent and not a politician, what else could he do?
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