by Robert Romano
Apprehensions on the southern border hit 103,492 in March, according to data compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the highest in a decade.
In 2018, apprehensions averaged about 43,424 monthly, 34,626 in 2017, 46,114 in 2016, 37,071 in 2015 and 47,436 in 2014. 2019 looks like it will be a record year, as there have already been more apprehensions through March at 422,334 than all of 2017.
Amid the surge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement only has about 52,000 beds to detain people who are apprehended — which guarantees that a good number of those apprehended will have to be released.
There are simply too many people coming, with not enough facilities to accommodate them and not enough judges to process them efficiently. The effect is catch-and-release. And Congress knows it.
Even the limit on beds comes down to deliberate decision-making by Congress, as this was a major sticking point in the discussions on ending the government shutdown. Democrats wanted a harder limit on beds even when faced with the data of how the system was being overwhelmed. Last year, the authorization allowed for an average daily of 40,520, but President Trump has been able to get the actual number up to 49,000 by moving things around. This year, the new baseline was increased to 45,274, which he can ratchet up to 52,000 by moving things around.
As it turns out, Trump was prophetic in requesting additional funds with the migrant surge now occurring. But what Congress has provided is not nearly enough. Not with over 103,000 being apprehended in a single month.
Ultimately, the federal government wouldn’t need so many beds if resources were brought to bear to secure the border entirely. Two years into the Trump administration, unfortunately, and Congress only included $1.6 billion from 2018 for replacing existing fencing with new steel barriers and $1.375 billion in 2019 for more steel barriers.
As it is, President Donald Trump had to resort to declaring a national emergency on the border so that military construction funds could be reprogrammed.
Reporting from Calexico, Calif., Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reported that with existing funding including the emergency funds, about 450 miles of wall will be built: “Around Dec. 2020, the total amount of money we will have put in the ground in the last couple of years will be about 450 miles. That’s probably about $8 billion, in total about 33 projects.”
In the meantime, while the system continues to be flooded, that means a lot of people are simply going to be released. So, President Trump is proposing to release them into sanctuary cities and states that Democrats have declared. The thinking is clear enough.
On Twitter on April 12, Trump stated, “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only…The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!”
Perhaps when leaders in Congress have to deal with the migrant surge directly in their local communities, instead thinking they can dump them in red states, they will sit down with Trump and finally get down to business to giving the resources the federal government needs to both deter and contain the illegal immigration surge now occurring.
While the President awaits Congressional action, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning suggested that human traffickers should be declared terrorist organizations: “The problem is now so severe that the President should simply declare the human trafficking cartels who are profiteering off the illegal immigration surge to be terrorist organizations and treated accordingly. The costs to both the American taxpayer and to those who depend upon our nation’s generous social safety net is unacceptable, but what’s worse is it is now endangering our national security, and those in Mexico who are facilitating the trafficking need to be dealt with the full force of the law.”
A terrorist organization declaration would invoke certain authorities that would allow the Trump administration to cut of the funds traffickers receive via remittances and other means.
Manning is right. Not enough pressure is being put on those making the journey as the resources Congress has provided are insufficient by a several orders of magnitude to deter and prevent the currently seen levels of migration.
The human traffickers realize the border is wide open, and unless something is done, this is crisis is not going to get any better. Something’s got to give.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.