Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) gathered approximately 1,500 asylum-seeking Central American migrants together in March 2018, to form a caravan for a 2000-mile march to the United States. It attracted a lot of attention which turned out to be much ado about nothing.
On April 3, 2018, DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE tweeted:
I’ve been advised by Mexican officials that the caravan is dissipating. GOM has repatriated several hundred participants to Central America and is offering refugee status to others who qualify. I thank the GOM for their partnership on this and other security issues.— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) April 3, 2018
Nevertheless, President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE was concerned about the caravan when he sent a memorandum to the secretary of Defense directing him to arrange for the deployment of National Guard troops at the border. And the House Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing on it, “A ‘Caravan’ of illegal immigrants: A test of U.S. borders.”
Despite political spin to the contrary, the border is not secure, and the hearing highlighted problems which are preventing DHS from securing it.
The National Immigration Forum submitted a statement claiming that U.S. border policies have been effective, but that claim was contradicted by testimony from the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Colonel Steven McCraw.
According to McCraw, the federal government did not respond to numerous requests from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to provide the Border Patrol with the resources it needs to secure the border, so Texas has had to provide the necessary assistance at its own expense.
Texas deployed State Troopers, Special Agents, and Texas Rangers to the border to conduct around-the-clock ground, marine, and air operations. Then, three years later, it deployed 500 State Troopers, tactical marine boats, aircraft and detection technology assets, and the Texas National Guard to the border.
But illegal crossings and smuggling continued and crime in the border region continued to rise.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, testified that the biggest challenge to securing the border is a shortage of manpower. The Border Patrol has only been able to bring its numbers up to 19,300 agents, despite a congressionally mandated floor of 21,370 agents.
Trump plans to hire 5,000 additional agents, but that may not be possible.
Although the Border Patrol has been averaging 523 new hires a year, it has been losing 904 agents a year.
Border Patrol agents are deployed to less desirable duty locations than other federal law enforcement officers and generally receive lower compensation. Also, two-thirds of the applicants fail the polygraph test.
Misuse of agents is another problem. The McAllen Station has more than 700 agents, but leave and off-duty-days typically reduce that number to around 400 agents. And only around 50 of them are assigned to patrol the station’s 60-mile section of the border.
McAllen is reporting an apprehension rate of 79 percent, but that is just guesswork. When single agents patrol 14-mile zones, it is not possible to know how many illegal crossings are being made.
Judd also complained about “catch and release,” which is the practice of releasing aliens arrested shortly after an illegal border crossing on their promise to return for a removal hearing. The immigration court backlog is so bad that the wait for a hearing usually is at least two years.
Approximately 88 percent of them do not return for their hearings.
Acting Border Patrol Chief Carla L. Provost declined an invitation to testify and did not send anyone in her place.
Andrew R. Arthur, from the Center for Immigration Studies, testified that border security measures will not be effective until various loopholes and flaws in the immigration laws are addressed. For instance, border security is being undermined by the “credible-fear” system.
Most undocumented aliens apprehended shortly after an illegal entry or at a port of entry are subject to expedited removal unless they request asylum and establish a credible fear of persecution, which entitles them to an asylum hearing in removal proceedings.
Credible fear determinations have increased from 5,000 in 2009 to 94,000 in 2016, and due apparently to misapplication of asylum law, a credible fear was found in 88 percent of the cases.
Also, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Protection Act (TVPRA) has been used to require placement with the Office of Refugee Resettlement instead of removal proceedings for the 200,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who have come to America from Central America since 2013. But most of them are not trafficking victims.
According to the White House, most UACs fail to appear at their hearings and many who do and are found deportable do not comply with their deportation orders. Only 3.5 percent of them are removed from the U.S.
It is apparent from this testimony that the border is not secure and that the measures being taken to secure it are not likely to be effective.
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.