Family Unit Apprehensions Up 960 Percent
By Heather Ham-Warren | October 26, 2018
In the past seventeen months, the apprehension of illegal alien family units at the border has increased by a whopping 960 percent. According to data compiled by the United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) a total of 16,658 family units were apprehended between points of entry in the month of September— a new record and a sharp spike from the previous months. In total, 161,113 family units have been apprehended thus far this year.
Unless Congress chooses to legislatively fix the numerous loopholes in our immigration system, these numbers will continue to rise at this alarming rate. There are several things Congress can and should do before the end of the year to mitigate this crisis.
First, Congress must address our broken asylum system. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions has previously explained, credible fear claims have skyrocketed in recent months, and the percentage of claims that are genuinely meritorious is down. Congress must tighten the definition of credible fear and the process by which it is evaluated. Furthermore, Congress should clearly grant immigration authorities the discretion to refuse dubious claims at the border.
Next, Congress must close the Flores loophole. Earlier this summer, the Trump Administration announced that it would begin to bring criminal charges against every single alien caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. This “zero-tolerance policy” was generally celebrated as a victory for the millions of Americans who voted for the president in the 2016 elections. However, logistics involving the Flores settlement agreement proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
As Flores currently stands, the government cannot hold illegal alien children past 20 days, meaning at 21 days, a child must be separated from his or her parent if the parent remains in custody. Of course, this policy caused nationwide outbursts as media outlets rans stories, videos, and pictures of children crying out for their parents. Interestingly, months later, it turns out that many parents don’t actually want to be reunited with their children after all. Of 162 Central Americans deported without their kids, 109 have opted to leave their youngsters in the United States.
Finally, Congress should amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 to give equal treatment to individuals from both contiguous and noncontiguous countries. The TVPRA was meant to curb the heinous sex trafficking of children. But in an effort to protect minors who were being trafficked, the TVPRA opened the door for large-scale abuse. Under the TVPRA unaccompanied children (UACs) cannot be turned back at the border unless they are form Mexico or Canada. Instead, they must be admitted and provided an often-lengthy legal procedure, with counsel, to press a claim to remain in the United States.
Unfortunately, a law intended to protect victims of human traffickers, created a new business venture for human smugglers. Many Central and South American parents recognized this as an opportunity to send their kids to the U.S. where they might be placed in the care of relatives already here in the hopes that someday the parents would be able to join them.
Today, the United States currently houses, clothes, feeds, and educates more than 10,000 UACs a year, at a cost of over $1 billion to American taxpayers. Despite the fact that the UAC program was never intended to serve as a foster care system for illegal aliens, the federal government maintains approximately 100 shelters in fourteen different states.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has stated that “legal loopholes significantly hinder the Department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country.” When Congress returns to Washington, D.C. following the midterm elections they must address these loopholes.