Eight in 10 illegal entrants at the border are being turned back quickly because of policies implemented to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.
Ken Cuccinelli, the second-highest DHS official, reacted to the latest enforcement action data from the U.S.-Mexico border. April apprehension numbers reached a low not seen in several years, and most of the aliens who did appear unlawfully at the border were immediately sent back to Mexico.
“Just look at April — 80% of the people [Customs and Border Protection] apprehended at the border were returned back over the border in an average of under two hours. That’s astonishing,” Cuccinelli told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s “Arizona’s Morning News” on Friday.
He continued: “In the last six weeks, the Border Patrol has been implementing a health order rather than immigration law.”
There were 16,789 enforcement actions on the U.S. southern border in April, according to the latest data provided by CBP. That number marks a 50% decline in apprehensions compared to March, and a huge drop from the more than 109,000 actions taken in April 2019.
These “enforcement actions” include apprehensions made by the agency and individuals who were turned away at the border. When broken down, CBP and Border Patrol agents in April conducted 15,862 apprehensions and turned away 927 foreign nationals who appeared at the southern border.
CBP is able to quickly process and turn back migrants because of a recent authority granted due to the Trump administration’s closure on the southern and northern borders. The White House, per an order from the CDC, closed the borders off to all non-essential traffic.
The authority, Title 42, allows agents to swiftly turn migrants back, reducing risks of viral infection.
The result has been a steep drop in border crossings and a huge decline in the number of detainees at Border Patrol facilities. Cuccinelli compared what the coronavirus pandemic would look like if the country was still facing a humanitarian crisis at the border like it did in 2019. (RELATED: Mexican National Illegally Crossed Border For Coronavirus Medical Care)
“A year ago, there were days we had as many as 20,000 people in Border Patrol custody,” he said.
He added: “Imagine bringing one COVID-positive person into that environment. That is not good for those migrants, it’s not good for the Border Patrol agents who work there nor that community because it’s that community’s health care system that absorbs those people when they get sick.”
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