Statement by Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Good afternoon and welcome. I also want to welcome Commanding General [Terrence J.] O’Shaughnessy of U.S. Northern Command.
I would like to update you on our efforts to prepare for enhanced security operations in order to address the potential for large groups of migrants to arrive at the U.S. border as part of a so-called caravan.
As of this afternoon, we continue to track a large group of approximately 3,500, traveling through southern Mexico with a stated intent to reach the U.S. border.
This group is near the Chiapas/Oaxaca border in southern Mexico.
We’re also aware of a second large group of migrants at the Ciudad Hidalgo border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico.
Size estimates for the second group are around 3,000 as well.
To put these numbers in context, we are already facing a border security and a humanitarian crisis at our southwest border.
(Migrant caravan pushes north into Mexico. William La Jeunesse has the details. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 31, 2018.)
Each day, on average for the last three weeks, CBP has encountered a combination of nearly 1,900 persons apprehended crossing our border illegally or presenting without documents at ports of entry.
More than half of these arrivals have been made up of family units and unaccompanied children who have placed themselves in the hands of violent human smugglers, paying $7,000 per person to make the journey.
They’re incentivized to try to cross our border by the gaps in our legal framework and the expectation that they will be allowed to stay.
U.S. Northern Command is commanding @DeptofDefense forces for Operation #FaithfulPatriot in support of the @DHSgov and @CBP as they secure and manage the Nation’s borders. #OFP https://t.co/uH8p09iZNh
— NORAD & USNORTHCOM (@Norad_Northcom) October 31, 2018
This means that at any given moment, there are tens of thousands of intending migrants between the Guatemala border and the U.S. border moving towards us at any given time.
Within that flow are about 17,000 criminals — last year — along with hardened smugglers and people from over 100 countries around the world.
Our immigration system is unable to effectively process and repatriate those without the right to remain in the United States, due to extensive backlogs in our courts and because of court restrictions on detaining people through their immigration proceedings.
What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which presents unique safety and border security threats.
For the two large groups that we are following, we have already seen the first one make unlawful entry across two international borders.
A second group, still in Guatemala, has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against both Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams.
Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.
(The Operation Secure Linedeployment is a direct response to two large migrant caravans traveling through Mexico and Central America toward the U.S. Courtesy of CBS Los Angeles and YouTube. Posted on Oct 29, 2018.)
Our message to the organizers and participants of this caravan is simple.
As the president and the Secretary Nielson have made clear, we will not allow a large group to enter the United States in an unsafe and unlawful manner.
For those that seek to cross the border illegally, we will apprehend them and fully enforce the laws of the United States.
For those who seek to make an asylum claim safely and lawfully at a port of entry, the Government of Mexico has already offered you protection and employment authorization.
If you are fleeing alleged persecution at home, you have arrived at a safe place to make your claim.
If you are an economic migrant seeking to join family members in the United States, you should return home and apply for the appropriate visa.
Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
While CBP and its DHS partners processed more than 38,000 inadmissible persons claiming fear of return to their home country safely and efficiently at our ports of entry last year, there is no benefit to being part of a large group.
The caravan has already been offered protections in Mexico. You will not be allowed to enter the U.S. the same way.
Trump will keep America safe by blocking migrant caravan at border. An op-ed by NBPC President Brandon Judd https://t.co/frCfixHRLS
— Border Patrol Union – NBPC (@BPUnion) October 29, 2018
I would like to note here that we very much appreciate the efforts of the Government of Mexico to address this challenging situation, in accordance with the highest principles of protection of human rights and respect for migrants while upholding the integrity of the Mexican border and Mexican immigration law.
We also appreciate the continuing communication and efforts of our Central American partners, especially Guatemala, to address the challenges of these large groups.
In terms of our preparations at the border, yesterday we launched Operation Secure Line, a multi-phased and flexible operation response designed to ensure that we are prepared for any number of contingencies involved with the arrival and attempted crossing of a large group of intending migrants at our border.
Whether they attempt to cross at a port of entry or unlawfully in between ports of entry, an important principle here is that border security is a law enforcement mission.
As the unified border security agency of the United States, CBP is well equipped, along with support from interagency federal, state and local partners to manage multiple contingencies of varying size.
Since we initiated our planning two weeks ago, we have completed updated assessments at each of our 26 crossing points on the southwest border and we have already deployed 100 specially trained Special Response Team operators to prepare plans for each location.
As information on the approach of a large group at a port of entry becomes available, we have at the ready 1,000 CBP officers, including 250 tactical enforcement officers and mobile response team professionals with training on managing contingencies including riot control.
Between ports of entry we have an additional 830 Border Patrol agents on standby, ready to deploy, to include 140 special operations agents, 385 mobile response team agents, and an additional 350 agents from unaffected sectors.
These agents will be augmented and supported by over two dozen CBP air assets for surveillance and mobile response including four Black Hawks, six additional helicopters, as well as multiple fixed-wing assets and unmanned aerial systems.
Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.
This is in addition to the 2,000 National Guard personnel already augmenting operations under Operation Guardian Support in making an impact in border security supporting apprehensions and drug seizures since last year.
Specifically CBP has requested that DOD provide support in several key areas:
Significant air and ground transportation and logistic support to move CBP personnel and equipment to locations of operational focus;
Engineering capabilities and equipment to help ensure our ability to secure our legal crossings in key areas of the border;
Medical support units;
Mobile housing for sustaining CBP deployed personnel; and
Extensive planning support.
I will turn it over to General O’Shaughnessy to detail DOD’s robust response to our request for support in just a moment.
But let me close by saying that, regardless of the operational contingencies we face, along with our interagency partners and unprecedented support from DOD, CBP will ensure border security.
We will not allow a large group to enter the U.S. unlawfully.
We will maintain lawful trade and travel to the greatest extent possible.
We will act in accordance with the highest principles of law enforcement.
We will treat intending migrants humanely and professionally at all times, and the safety of CBP personnel, especially our law enforcement personnel on the front lines as well as the traveling public will remain paramount.
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, Commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command General Terrence John O’Shaughnessy, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth P. Rapuano hosted a joint press conference on the Department of Defense deployment to the Southwest border. Courtesy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and YouTube. Streamed live on Oct 29, 2018.)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s borders at and between official ports of entry.
CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.
Trump is Right to Stop Illegal Alien Caravan Instead of Rolling Out Welcome Mat
Opinion Contributor by Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, USA TODAY
Another “caravan” of several thousand illegal aliens is marching towards our southern border, and the Democrats want to lay out the welcome mat.
All that stands between the United States and total lawlessness on the border is President Donald Trump and his administration’s determination that American law — not the open borders lobby — decides who enters this country.
These Central American caravaners make it very clear that they want to enter the United States, and they don’t really care what the people of the United States have to say about it.
Singing their national anthems and carrying their national flags, the would-be invaders scoff at the notion that immigration laws apply to them.
With the encouragement of American liberals, Democratic politicians and international open borders groups, this spectacle has become a regular occurrence.
This spring, a group called Pueblo Sin Fronteras — literally “people without borders” — led a caravan of about 1,500 Central Americans through Mexico to the U.S. border.
Democrats help migrants exploit asylum system
After weeks of fawning news coverage, the migrants split up at our border. Some dispersed into Mexico, where they were offered residency. Some made a break for it and illegally crossed into the United States.
Others presented themselves at California border crossings and, carefully coached by American lawyers, told U.S. immigration officials the exact magic words that trigger a “credible fear” determination for asylum.
Knowing they have the support of “abolish ICE” Democrats, the very same organizers are trying these proven tactics again.
Caravaners know that if they simply claim to fear persecution in their home country, they stand a very good chance of being allowed to enter the United States with no proof.
Once in, it could be years, if ever, before they have to defend that claim in an immigration hearing, let alone face deportation.
This cynical exploitation of our generous asylum laws is deliberately enabled by Democrats and open borders groups. Through years of lawsuits and Obama-era executive orders, they’ve manipulated the system to a breaking point.
Now the same people are resisting Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as he tries to return asylum policy to its original purpose.
With Trump’s full support, Sessions is making clear that asylum is for people who are being persecuted for their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” — not anyone whose home country is less prosperous or more dangerous than America.
Since Donald Trump’s entry onto the national political scene in 2015, he has advocated tirelessly for a secure, physical wall to put an end to this chaos at the border.
But Democrats have time and again threatened to scuttle vital budget bills if the legislation funded even a portion of that wall.
While his congressional allies continue to fight for wall funding, the president has threatened to cut off foreign aid to Central American countries if those governments refuse to stem the tide of illegal alien caravans tramping through their territory to reach the United States.
President Trump is also pledging to use his command of the U.S. military to counter this wanton disregard for our borders.
“In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught — and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” he tweeted this month.
That’s no idle threat.
In April, after the last caravan breached our borders, Trump ordered thousands of National Guardsmen to support U.S. Border Patrol operations.
That deployment led to more than 10,000 arrests of deportable illegal aliens and the seizure of several tons of illegal drugs.
The border is a national security issue. The work our immigration enforcement agencies do is essential to keeping Americans safe from crime, drugs and the vicious transnational cartels that peddle both.
Chief among these agencies is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the same ICE that many Democrats want to abolish.
Trump wants to keep criminals out of US
In fiscal 2017 alone, the ICE-Homeland Security Investigations unit seized nearly 1 million pounds of drugs, including tons of the deadly opioids that are fueling the worst drug overdose crisis in U.S. history.
Stemming the flow of violent crime, much of it linked to MS-13 and other brutal transnational criminal gangs, is also impossible if we can’t control border crossings.
Fully 74 percent of the 143,470 suspected illegal aliens ICE arrested for removal proceedings in 2017 had criminal records, including almost 10,000 sex offenders and more than 1,500 convicted killers.
It’s the goal of the Trump administration to get these people out of our country and keep them out.
Democrats and open borders advocates, though, want to abolish ICE, leave our weakenedasylum system unreformed, and ignore the fact that foreign governments are enabling the mass invasion of American borders.
They oppose Trump’s immigration agenda at every turn because they’re convinced that continued mass illegal immigration and, eventually, mass amnesty, will bring them an endless supply of liberal votes.
Regardless, they will learn that, despite their best efforts to degrade our border security, Trump will continue to stand in their way and enforce the rule of law in America.
Brandon Judd is the president of the National Border Patrol Council, the exclusive labor representative of approximately 16,000 Border Patrol agents.