WASHINGTON DC (STL.News) – Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen traveled on Friday to Calexico, California as part of a multi-state tour to oversee the Department-wide action to confront the humanitarian and security emergency at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Secretary Nielsen, federal and local law enforcement, and members of Congress joined President Trump at the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Calexico Station to discuss the bold action being taken by DHS to address the dramatic influx of unaccompanied children and families, while pursuing longer-lasting solutions by pressuring Congress to fix the legal loopholes perpetuating the crisis. Later in the day, President Trump and Secretary Nielsen toured a newly built portion of the border wall.
Throughout her tour, Secretary Nielsen reiterated calls to Congress for help in strengthening immigration laws, Nielsen said.
“No matter what we do, it’s clear that the only way to truly fix this crisis is with legislation. Outdated laws and misguided court decisions have created an illegal fast-pass into America. These loopholes are the main cause of today’s emergency…they are enormous ‘pull’ factors to the United States…and closing them is the only surefire way out of this emergency,” the Secretary said in Calexico.
“Thank you Mr. President for everything you do to support our frontline operators – who are working 24/7 to safeguard our nation. We are truly grateful for your leadership and commitment to the men and women of DHS.” she added.
Secretary Nielsen first arrived at the Southwest Border on Wednesday to personally oversee implementation of DHS disaster response measures, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) emergency surge operations and expanded initiatives to require aliens to wait in Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
In El Paso, the Secretary toured the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry and US Border Patrol processing facility. She then traveled to the El Paso Border Patrol Station where she addressed agents and officers regarding the efforts being taken to fulfill the Department’s humanitarian and security mission while coping with record migration flows not seen in over a decade, facilities at peak capacity, and insufficient resources for law enforcement.
“Rest assured, those of us in leadership understand the crisis that we’re in. We know that you are overwhelmed and over capacity,” Nielsen said. “El Paso is on the front lines of our ongoing Border Security emergency and I want to thank each of you for your service to our country. I know the situation you face is not easy. The men and women in this room and across this agency are vital to our homeland security missions: You have my undying respect and appreciation.”
“As you all know, we have seen the situation rapidly move from a crisis to near system-wide meltdown,” Nielsen continued. “The numbers paint a dire picture. We are nearing 100,000 migrants apprehended per month. These migrants are arriving in enormous groups unlike any we’ve seen before. The volume of vulnerable populations arriving is unsustainable. DHS facilities are past capacity – our agents and officers are stretched too thin, and the magnitude of arriving and detained aliens has substantially increased the risk of life-threatening incidents.”
The Secretary then traveled to the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector Headquarters in Arizona on Thursday, where she conducted meetings with DHS operational leadership from USBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) followed by a round-table discussion with local elected officials, local law enforcement, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.
Following the roundtable, Nielsen spoke directly to DHS personnel and members of the military – including the Arizona National Guard and U.S. Marines currently assisting DHS frontline responders – to outline the whole-of-government emergency response currently under way at the Southwest Border.
“Until Congress acts, we will continue doing everything we can to help you manage the record migration flows,” Nielsen said. “I have called on non-border agencies within the Department for volunteers to assist with humanitarian response. This volunteer force will help alleviate the strain you all are facing – and allow you to resume your security missions – detaining illegal crossers, preventing the entry of drugs and criminals, and more.”
“I want you to know that we are focused on providing you with all of the resources needed to combat the crisis. That includes building border wall systems to reduce illegal entry, and increased work across our government and with the governments of Mexico and Central America to bring transnational criminals to justice.”
Secretary Nielsen recently announced that DHS would be taking a full-fledged “disaster response” approach to the border emergency, including appointing a lead federal official for interagency action and leveraging the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). The NRCC will serve as the hub for information sharing and coordination of interagency support to CBP and ICE efforts to respond to the crisis. The Secretary has directed DHS agencies to surge resources and personnel from across the Department toward border security and migration management and has also put out a call for volunteers from non-border missions from both DHS component agencies and interagency partners.
Nielsen also directed CBP to undertake emergency surge operations, including immediately redeploying hundreds of CBP personnel from field operations and ports of entry to assist with the response to the crisis. By reassigning these personnel, Border Patrol agents will be freed up from humanitarian response and enabled to return to critical security operations.
Nielsen further directed CBP to immediately expand the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a DHS initiative designed to help prevent fraud and ensure aliens are not able to disappear into the country to escape the law by returning individuals to Mexico to wait during the pendency of their U.S. immigration proceedings. Specifically, she directed CBP to return hundreds of additional migrants per day above current rates to Mexico, consistent with U.S. law and humanitarian obligations. This increase in returns shall include individuals apprehended or encountered at or between ports of entry. Additionally, the agency is directed to plan for an expansion of MPP beyond the locations in which it currently operates in California and Texas.