Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Mark Morgan made the case for why his agency must embark on massive, nationwide apprehensions of migrants living illegally in the country.
“In my opinion, this is the worst crisis, actually, that we’ve really seen in modern history with respect to the illegal immigration along our southwest border, simply because of the demographics,” Morgan, the newly appointed leader of ICE, said Tuesday in a call with reporters.
Morgan began by breaking down the numbers of the illegal immigration crisis. There were more than 144,000 apprehensions and inadmissible encounters at the U.S. southern border in May, according to CBP data.
The largest single apprehension in history was made during that month: 1,036 migrants caught near El Paso — a number that more than doubled the previous record, according to CBP. The acting director said the U.S. will be hit with 1 million illegal migrants by the end of 2019.
He also said the demographics of current immigrants is what’s most striking. Roughly 75% are either unaccompanied minors or members of a family unit, and the vast majority of them are from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, he said.
The numbers have pushed U.S. immigration agencies past the breaking point.
U.S. Border Patrol is holding 15,000 individuals in custody, despite only having the official capacity to hold 4,000, according to Morgan. Since December 2018, ICE has been forced to release more than 207,000 unauthorized family members into the interior of the U.S., and those numbers, according to Morgan, are only growing.
“Look, it’s clear. If you grab a child, that’s your passport in the United States, and everyone knows that. The cartels are actually buying ad spaces in the Northern Triangle counties telling individuals that if you grab a kid, you’ll come into the country,” the ICE chief said, adding that a significant number of migrants are presenting fake documentation and arriving with children who are actually not related to them.
“The fact that about 95% of the family units from Central America apprehended along the southwest border in 2017 remain in the country today is evidence that the system has failed, and our removal efforts need to increase,” he told reporters.
The information was parlayed into a case for the Trump administration’s plan to detain and deport illegal immigrants on a massive scale. President Donald Trump made the announcement Monday night, telling his Twitter followers that ICE would soon begin removing millions of aliens who are living in the country illegally.
Morgan said the effort will not only work to remove unauthorized immigrants, but will also serve as a symbolic gesture for foreign nationals who are considering illegal immigration into the U.S.
“At this point right now … we have really no other choice but to use our enforcement statutory authority to identify where these individuals are and remove them. President Trump’s executive order has made it clear: No class of individual is exempt from our federal immigration statutes,” he said.
While Morgan did not give details on how the operation would be conducted, he reiterated several times that it would be done compassionately.
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