The dramatic rise in the number of minors crossing the border is tied in part to the Obama administration’s policies against deporting childhood arrivals and reunifying families, according to the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee about his department’s budget on Wednesday, CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske spoke about the reasons behind the increase in minors crossing the southern border.
As House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman John Carter pointed out in the hearing, some 6,000 unaccompanied minors crossed into the U.S. in 2011 and 34,000 crossed last year. CBP and Health and Human Services projects 60,000 will cross in fiscal year 2014, a ten-fold increase in the three years.
“While I recognize and am sympathetic to the humanitarian obligations we give these young victims, we cannot ignore that policies are creating a gravitational pull so strong that parents are willing to support vile criminal networks, and to place their precious children in harm’s way — outcomes this subcommittee cannot accept,” Carter said.
Kerlikowske acknowledged that administration’s policies are “an issue” but pointed out that there are numerous factors pushing these minors out of their home countries and to the U.S.
“The deferred action, the family reunification, is an issue,” Kerlikowske told the House panel. “But I’ve also looked at the surveys of some of these people that were talked to back in 2013. The violence within their own countries, Guatemala, Honduras —Honduras now having, I believe the highest homicide rate in the world — and the crime in El Salvador.”
“So the crime and the gang issues in their own country are a push out. Sometimes there is family violence also and then of course there’s the economic incentive to come to America, which has always been here.”
“But I certainly understand this issue of family reunification as being a part of what is really a complex problem,” he continued. “Our CBP facilities are not designed to to hold these large numbers, nor are our ports of entry.”
He said that CBP often end up holding the minors for up to 70 hours before Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes them and then places them in the custody of Health and Human Services.
“My role has been to keep our heads above water at CBP, to get the Border Patrol agents back doing their work on the border and not essentially babysitting a lot of children,” he said. “That they really dong often times have the facilities or the support that they need to do that.”
Kerlikowske’s words echoed what ICE Council president Chris Crane told The Daily Caller late last year about ICE’s participation in reunifying illegal immigrant children to their illegal immigrant parents.