Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney explained how the changing nature of immigration has fueled the recent border crisis, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the nature of immigration and illegal immigration just over the last few weeks,” Romney said Sunday to host Chuck Todd. “I mean a number of years ago, and up until just a few weeks ago, the great majority of people coming into our country were coming looking for work, single men and oftentimes just returned to the border — sent back home, typically to Mexico.”
“In the last few weeks there’s been a dramatic change, and that is we’re seeing unaccompanied young people as well as families with lots of kids pouring into the border, and they say the magic word, ‘I’m seeking asylum,'” Romney continued. The former presidential nominee said the U.S. doesn’t have enough space to house the vast number of family units and children filling up detention facilities, resulting in many of them simply being released into the interior of the country.
“They’re being just turned out into our country — 125,000 of them so far this year. It’s overwhelming our system, we have got to be able to deal with this,” he said.
Romney’s comments mirror what the Trump administration has argued for months: The dramatic rise in families and children has pushed law enforcement officials past the breaking point.
While current apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border still don’t match up to the numbers seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many of the foreign nationals seeking to enter the country illegal today are families and children from Central America. U.S. trafficking laws make it much harder for officials to quickly deport minors and individuals from noncontiguous countries, such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The situation has overwhelmed detention centers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed in March that it was forced to release over 100,000 migrant family members in the prior three months — a total that averages to over 1,000 illegal migrants a day.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent a letter to Congress, asking lawmakers to pass a series of measures that would help her department better combat the crisis. Her requests include reforms to how officials manage unaccompanied alien children and changes to the U.S. asylum process. (RELATED: Democrats Are Suing To Stop Trump From Funding Border Wall Construction)
“We are grappling with a humanitarian and security catastrophe that is worsening by the day, and the Department has run out of capacity, despite extraordinary intra-Departmental and interagency efforts,” Nielsen’s March 28 letter read. “Accordingly, [the Department of Homeland Security] requests immediate Congressional assistance to stabilize the situation.”
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