Border Patrol official says caring for migrants' medical needs pulls agents away from national security mission

The chief of law enforcement operations with U.S. Border Patrol, Brian Hastings, told Hill.TV in an interview that aired Thursday on "Rising" that caring for migrants' medical problems has pulled agents away from the national security mission at the southern border. 

"The primary concern for us is the demographic of those that are coming across the border. Many of these from the northern triangle, many with medical conditions have never seen a doctor, have never been immunized," Hastings told host Buck Sexton on Wednesday. 

"This is their first time when they come into contact with us after a very long journey to get up there on crowded buses, often arriving with flu and various other medical conditions that we have to immediately take into consideration," he continued. 

"Our agents are dedicating a lot of time into getting these folks medical help, but that's pulling [people away] from the national security mission," he said. "We have so many families arriving that are sick and need immediate medical attention."

Data released from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on Tuesday found that agents are slated to make 31,000 medical referrals this year alone, which is up from 12,000 in 2018. 

The agency said in the report that 25 to 40 percent of its manpower is being dedicated “to the care, transportation, and the humanitarian mission.”

The report comes weeks after President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE declared a national emergency at the southern border in an effort to fund his long-promised border wall. The move, however, has sparked fierce debate on Capitol Hill. 

Democrats say the emergency Trump is referring to at the border does not exist, while Republicans have expressed concerns over Trump's use of executive authority to fund the border wall. 

— Julia Manchester