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Media 091514 DHS

Monday, September 15, 2014  

U.S. Official: 'The Situation along the Southwest Border'  

Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security

(Statement)  

I am pleased that in August the number of apprehensions along the southwest border declined again, reflecting a continued sharp decline in the number of unaccompanied children and adults with children apprehended while attempting to cross our southwest border illegally at the Rio Grande Valley. This decline began around mid-June. In July the numbers of unaccompanied children were about half of what they were in June. August was even lower— lower than August 2013 and the lowest since February 2013.   

Over the summer, at the direction of the President, this Department, along with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, State and Justice responded aggressively to the situation. We asked Congress to support our efforts with supplemental funding. Congress failed to act on our request before the August recess. Though the worst is over for now, there are still bills to be paid and our border security efforts must be sustained to prevent another spike like we saw this year. Now that Congress is back from recess, I hope it will support the men and women who worked overtime along the southwest border and provide this Department with an additional $1.2 billion in funding in FY 2015.   

The fact is, over the last several years, we have made great strides in border security. With the support of Congress, total apprehensions by Border Patrol – which are a direct indicator of total illegal attempts to cross the border – have gone down substantially in recent years. In FY 2000, Border Patrol apprehensions were at a high of more than 1.6 million. In FY 2013, Border Patrol apprehensions dropped to less than 420,000. That number will increase somewhat in FY 2014, owing to the spike in migration this summer in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, which has now receded to at least FY 2013 levels. The overall decline in illegal migration over the last 14 years is due in very large measure to the unprecedented levels of personnel and resources we have dedicated to border security. Today there are 20,000 border patrol agents (compared to 15,000 in 2008), 652 miles of fencing and barriers (compared to 267 in 2008), 9 unmanned aircraft systems (compared to 4 in 2008) and 12,722 ground surveillance systems (compared to 6,712 in 2008) all devoted to this Nation’s border security.   

With the help of Congress, we must and we will continue this good progress.
 
The August numbers  

Unaccompanied children / Adults with children  

January          3,706              2,286  
February        4,845              3,282   
March             7,177               5,752  
April                7,702              6,511  
May                 10,580           12,772  
June                10,622           16,329  
July                 5,501              7,405  
August            3,141               3,295   

Our government-wide response this summer on the southwest border

Our response to the rise of illegal migration on the southwest border this year was aggressive and comprehensive. Among other things:

• On May 12, I declared a “Level IV” Condition of Readiness within the Department of Homeland Security, which enabled us to draw upon the entire resources of the Department to respond to the situation.
  

• Beginning in May, Customs and Border Protection began using processing centers across the southwest to handle the additional illegal migration in the Rio Grande Valley, including a center in Nogales, Arizona and a new processing center in McAllen, Texas. These actions dramatically increased the capacity of CBP to deal with the spike.   

• Beginning in May, Customs and Border Protection began reassigning hundreds of border patrol agents to the Rio Grande Valley Sector from less busy sectors to manage the increased apprehensions.  

• Beginning in May, the Department of Health and Human Services opened three temporary shelters for unaccompanied children on Department of Defense installations in Texas, Oklahoma and California, and greatly expanded its shelter capacity for unaccompanied children across the country.   

• On June 2, the President directed a government-wide response to the situation, drawing upon the resources of the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Defense, Justice and State. I appointed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the response.  

• On June 20, the Vice President visited Central America and met with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to coordinate our governments’ international response to the situation.   

• On June 22, I issued an open letter in Spanish to those contemplating illegal migration from Central America to the United States, warning parents about the dangers of sending their children on the journey and correcting the rumors put out by criminal smugglers that our government was issuing “free passes” to those who arrived here.  

• Beginning in June and continuing into August, the Department of Homeland Security opened additional facilities in Artesia, New Mexico and Karnes City, Texas to detain and expedite the removal of adults with children.   

• On July 3, this Department launched our Dangers Awareness Campaign to also discourage parents from putting their children’s lives at risk by sending them illegally across our southwest border.  

• On July 22, the Department of Justice and I announced “Operation Coyote,” a joint DHS and DOJ campaign to surge resources toward the investigation, arrest and prosecution of criminal smuggling networks organizations. To date, the operation has resulted in 540 smuggling-related arrests, the seizure of over $950,000 in suspected smuggling payments from 504 bank accounts, and the seizure of 56 vehicles.   

• On July 25, President Obama met with the Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to discuss our governments’ international response to the situation and promote safe, legal and orderly migration.  

• In June, the Department of Justice began working to reassign a number of immigration judges to the cases of recent illegal migrants who crossed the southwest border and were placed in removal proceedings. This Department reassigned Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys to represent the government in these removal proceedings and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers to conduct credible fear interviews. Both DOJ and DHS have prioritized the cases of recently apprehended unaccompanied children, adults with children, and other recent border crossers, so that those cases can be processed quickly and fairly.  

• By July, through the surge of resources, the Department of Homeland Security had reduced the average removal time for many adults to Central America from 33 days to about 4 days.   

• By July, through the addition of extra aircraft and flights, and the cooperation of the Central American governments, DHS was repatriating several thousand migrants a week back to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.   

We are also pleased that the Mexican government has itself taken a number of important steps to interdict the flow of illegal migrants from Central America bound for the United States.   

DHS’s request for supplemental funding  

The aggressive border security measures recounted above have cost money. In July the President asked the Congress for $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to support these actions. Regrettably, Congress failed to act on this request. As a result, to pay for this Department’s response efforts, I was left with no choice but to reprogram $405 million away from the disaster relief fund and other important homeland security priorities to pay for the border situation. This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the Nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks.   

Now that Congress is back in session, I hope it will act to provide supplemental funding to this Department. The Department’s current request is for $1.2 billion in supplemental funding for FY 2015. Though the worst of the spike in illegal migration is over and back to 2013 levels, we must still pay our bills and continue to sustain the measures we put in place to prevent another spike in illegal migration of unaccompanied children and adults with children. Without supplemental funding, I will be forced to seek additional reprograming for FY 2015 if our efforts and progress is to be sustained. I urge the Congress to support the men and women of this Department who worked overtime to respond to the situation on our southwest border, and to support the good short- and long-term progress we have made to improve our Nation’s border security.  

For more information, including more detailed data on border apprehensions and personnel, technology and infrastructure deployed to the southwest border, visit here. 

Press release, "Statement by (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson about the Situation along the Southwest Border," DHS, Sep. 8, 2014

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