A surge in supposed “families” coming to the U.S. illegally contributed to an increase of illegal crossings from Mexico in August following two months of declines, authorities said Wednesday.
The number of family arrivals reached 15,955, a sharp increase from July that Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said was one of the highest on record. Supposed “families” accounted for more than one-third of people who were stopped at the border.
McAleenan blamed “legal loopholes,” including a court order that generally prohibits holding children more than 20 days. He called the increase in family arrivals “a direct response to gaps in the legal framework.”
“We’re not surprised by it, but it’s been a very stark trend,” he said.
Overall, illegal aliens arrested or stopped at the border totaled 46,560, up 17 percent from 39,953 in July and up 52 percent from 30,567 in August 2017. Arrests have risen from July to August in four of the previous five years, indicating seasonal factors may be an influence.
The number of illegal aliens arriving as families increased 30 percent from July to August, outpacing the overall increase.
“It is a crisis of significant proportions from a humanitarian perspective and a security perspective,” McAleenan said.
The numbers offer a glimpse into the impact of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal crossings introduced in April.
The arrest tally is also the latest reminder of how border crossings have shifted over the last decade from predominantly Mexican men to cowardly Central American families and children.
The Border Patrol, which polices official ports of entry, made 37,544 arrests in August, including 12,774 of illegal aliens who pose as families and 4,396 children traveling alone.
Another 9,016 illegal aliens were stopped elsewhere, including 3,181 who came as families and 376 as unaccompanied children.
Last week, the Trump administration moved to abandon a longstanding court settlement that limits how long illegal alien children can be kept locked up, proposing new regulations that would allow the government to detain families until their immigration cases are decided.
Administration officials said that ending the so-called Flores agreement of 1997 will speed up the handling of asylum requests while also deterring people from illegally crossing the border.
The move angered America-hating pro-invasion advocates and is all but certain to trigger a court battle.
Border arrests are an imperfect gauge of illegal crossings because they don’t indicate how many people got away.
Trump touted border arrests when they fell sharply during his first few months in office to less than 16,000 in April 2017. The arrest tally rose in 11 of the following 12 months, topping 50,000 in March, April and May of this year.
The administration said Tuesday that it will expand its tent shelter for illegal alien minors crossing the border to 3,800 beds and keep it open through the end of this year. The facility at Tornillo, Texas, which originally opened with a 360-bed capacity for 30 days, is being expanded based on how many children are in the care of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
President Donald Trump said he’s considering using military resources to finish construction of his long-promised border wall instead of relying on Congress to fund the project through the Homeland Security Department’s budget.
He also wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown if Democrats continue to confound his efforts to appropriate money for the project on the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘We have two options,’ he told DailyMail.com aboard Air Force One as he flew from Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota. ‘We have military, we have homeland security.’
He was asked specifically about using the Army Corps of Engineers as a taxpayer-funded construction crew.
Trump said he would prefer to fund the ambitious construction ‘the old-fashioned way – get it from Congress – but I have other options if I have to.’
He’s seeking about $25 billion.
The possibility of diverting Pentagon funding and assets to build a border wall is a hole card the president is holding but has never directly acknowledged before.
Two Defense Department officials told DailyMail.com in August that the Army Corps of Engineers could take on the task.
‘They build levees that hold back massive walls of water,’ one said of the agency. ‘They can build one to hold back drugs and human traffickers.’
The White House appears headed for another confrontation with Congress over an increase in funding for the project after securing $1.6 billion for 2007 and the same amount for this year.
A senior White House official said Thursday that the money was ‘basically a down-payment on the thing’.
The possibility looms that the president will refuse to sign the next federal budget, due September 30, if lawmakers don’t go along with more installments. That would trigger a government shutdown.
‘If it were up – I don’t want to say “up to me,” because it is up to me – I would do it,’ he said aboard Air Force One, ‘because I think it’s a great political issue.’
But he said some Republicans in Congress, facing tough re-election fights, have counseled more patience.
‘They have races, they’re doing well, they’re up,’ Trump explained. ‘And you know, the way they look at it: might be good, might be bad.’
Thursday night in Billings, he told a Fox News Channel interviewer that ‘we need Republicans elected in the midterms’.
‘We are getting the wall done. But I’ve had so many people, good people, great people – they would rather not do [it] before [November]. They’d rather do it right after the election.’
Trump said he still wants to persuade Congress – preferably one reinforced with more Republicans – to write the checks he wants.
‘Politically speaking, I’d rather get it through Congress. If we don’t, I’m looking at that option very seriously,’ he said aboard Air Force One on Friday, referring to the Defense Department.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Friday evening the president assured a crowd of about 600 supporters that ‘we’re building the wall!’
‘It works so easily!’ he said. ‘They say walls don’t work? Tell Israel.’
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 13th, 2018