DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen makes the case for reforming immigration and asylum laws in her opening statement before the House Homeland Security Committee for a hearing on border security.
"Smugglers and traffickers have caught on that the outdated laws, lack of resources, and bad court decisions effectively give them a free ticket into America," Nielsen said. "As a result, the flow of families and children has become a flood. Over the past five years, we have seen a 620% increase in families, or those posing as families, apprehended at the border."
She continued: "Of great concern to me is that the children are being used as pawns to get into our country. We have encountered recycling rings, where innocent young people are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. As a nation, we simply cannot stand for this."
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: I want to start by stressing that our country remains a beacon of hope, freedom, and opportunity to the world. We welcome more immigrants, temporary workers, and foreign travelers every year than any other nation on Earth.
Each year more than 1 million people become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Legal immigration has been a bedrock of this country. We want to strengthen legal immigration and welcome more individuals through a merit-based system that enhances economic vitality and the vibrancy of our diverse nation. We also continue to uphold our humanitarian ideals.
But illegal immigration is simply spiraling out of control and threatening public safety and national security.
We face a crisis, a real serious and sustained crisis at our borders. We have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at our doorstep every month. We have drugs, criminals, and violence spilling into our country every woke. And we have smugglers and traffickers profiting from human misery every single day by exploiting people seeking a better life, deceiving them about our laws, and fueling everything from sexual slavery to child exploitation to the smuggling of illicit goods.
Make no mistake this chain of human misery is getting worse. Yesterday we announced the numbers of apprehension at our Southern border have spiked again substantially. Since late last year we have been seeing 50 to 60,000 migrants arrive at our southern border each month. In February we saw 30% jump over the previous month with agents apprehending or encountering nearly 75,000 aliens. This is an 80% increase over the same time last year.
And I can report today that CBP is forecasting the problem will get worse in spring as the weather warms up. The projections are dire. The agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fiscal year than the entirety of FY17. And at the current pace, we are on track to encounter close to 1 million illegal aliens at our southern border this year.
Our capacity is already severely restrained but these increases will overwell the system entirely. This is not a manufactured crisis. This is truly an emergency.
What's different about the current migrant flows, and this is important, is not just how many people are coming, but who is arriving. Historically, illegal aliens arriving into the United States were predominantly single adult males from Mexico with no legal right to stay. And who we could quickly detain and remove within 48 hours.
But in recent years, we have seen the numbers of vulnerable populations --children and families-- skyrocket. Over 60% of the current flow are family units and unaccompanied alien children. And 60% are non-Mexican. Because of outdated laws, misguided court decisions, and a massive backlog of cases, we are often forced to release these groups into the United States and we have virtually no hope of removing them in the future.
More importantly, our ability to help those truly in need is severely limited. The vast majority of these individuals are from Central America, while many of them initially claim asylum and are let into the United States, only one in ten are ultimately granted asylum by an immigration judge. Unfortunately, when it comes time to remove the other 90% they have often disappeared into the interior of our country.
Smugglers and traffickers have caught on that the outdated laws, lack of resources, and bad court decisions effectively give them a free ticket into America. Information about the weaknesses in our system has spread quickly in Central America, in fact, they are advertised. And our booming economy under President Trump has made the dangerous journey even more attractive to migrants.
As a result, the flow of families and children has become a flood. Over the past five years, we have seen a 620% increase in families, or those posing as families, apprehended at the border.
Of great concern to me is that the children are being used as pawns to get into our country. We have encountered recycling rings, where innocent young people are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. As a nation, we simply cannot stand for this.
We must fix the system. Today's migrant flows have created a humanitarian catastrophe.