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By Sylvia Longmire
Columnist, In Homeland Security
For several months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have processed thousands of migrants from Central America every day along the southwest border. However, the flood of families, in particular, has strained available resources to the point that CBP is releasing migrants into the U.S. after minimal background checks. This is done when Immigration and Customs Enforcement “is unable to provide bed space to relieve overcrowding.”
Trump: ‘Mexico Is Doing NOTHING’
Amid record numbers of apprehensions, President Donald Trump threatened to close the southern border in a tweet for the third time since Thanksgiving: “Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country. They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing. The Dems don’t care, such BAD laws. May close the Southern Border!”
CBP Commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, is concerned that the overcrowding may lead to unhealthy and unsafe conditions for detained migrants.
“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he said. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing at the border, I fear that it’s just a matter of time.” Trump tweeted on Thanksgiving, “If we find that it gets to a level where we’re going to lose control or people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control.”
CBP resources are strained to the point that the Border Patrol has closed down several border-area highway checkpoints in order to send personnel to assist with migrant processing. According to the New York Times, a representative for the Border Patrol said the temporary measure is in place to help provide “appropriate care” for migrants apprehended at the border. The authorities closed checkpoints across the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which includes 121,000 square miles in New Mexico and 4,500 square miles in Texas, in order to free more agents to work directly on the border.
Trump’s National Emergency Declaration
The legal fight against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure border wall funding continues. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is already receiving money transfers from the Department of Defense (DoD) for fence construction. According to CNN, the DoD is scouting sites along the US-Mexico border to erect new physical barriers. Small teams of engineers and experts, comprised of about 10 personnel, are on the ground in Yuma, Arizona, and the New Mexico part of the El Paso sector, which also includes Texas, looking at sites.
DHS: Environmental Waivers
However, construction cannot begin until DHS issues environmental waivers, which are highly controversial. The REAL ID Act authorizes the DHS Secretary to waive any one of 32 laws designed to protect the environment in order to erect a structure in the name of national security. If DHS is able to issue these waivers in a timely manner, construction could begin as soon as late May.
The move comes shortly after the Pentagon notified Congress that it authorized the transfer of $1 billion. The funds are set to go toward building 57 miles fencing along the southwest border, in addition to improving roads and other measures in the region. CBP has previously stated that “the first new wall project, where no barrier currently exists, is anticipated to start in April in Hidalgo County of the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”
Border Migrants Released With No Tracking Device
Current immigration trends indicate that new sections of border fencing will have no impact on the migration surge. According to the Washington Post, the migrants arriving in El Paso are crossing the Rio Grande, arriving in a place where the United States already has formidable, modern border barriers.
The vast majority of migrants are voluntarily surrendering themselves to Border Patrol agents in order to request asylum. Many were being sent to Mexico under the Migration Protection Protocols to await the outcome of their asylum proceedings; most are being released without a tracking device and only a notice to appear before an immigration judge on a future date — sometimes in months, sometimes in years.