Legal and policy loopholes at America’s southern border are spurring a renewed influx of illegal migrants.
After a steady decline in apprehensions, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that arrests are climbing again.
CBP confirmed Thursday that detention centers are at maximum capacity, and that detainees are being released with flimsy administrative “notices to appear” for court hearings later. The aliens rarely return.
“The due-process framework to protect immigrants is being exploited,” says Ronald Vitiello, CBP’s acting deputy commissioner. “This encourages others to come.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is pushing for removal of illegal border crossers in a “quick and rapid manner,” Vitiello said. But understaffed immigration courts and aggressive lawyering block the way. A process that should take days stretches into months.
CBP says “family units” are a growing component on the influx – perhaps enticed by dreams of an amnesty for DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
More nefarious characters are coming, too. CBP reports that assaults on Border Patrol agents were up 45 percent in the past year. The slaying of a patrol agent near El Paso remains under investigation
Is the so-called Trump Effect waning? “There’s some of that,” Vitiello avers. An inability or unwillingness to expedite removals at the border sends a signal that business could be reverting to usual.
Indeed, the 310,000 border apprehensions last year were 24 percent below the previous year, and the fewest since 1971.
Vitiello is hopeful that the 5,000 new Border Patrol Agents requested by the president will be hired and deployed soon.
Meantime, CBP remains chronically undermanned, due to high attrition and what DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke benignly calls “career paths” into other agencies. Congress previously approved funding for 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, yet 1,000 slots remain vacant.