The migrants from Central Americasurging across the border are “family members” and do not present a danger to the U.S., Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said today.
“These are family members, these are not gang members, these are not dangerous individuals,” Kerlikowske told ABC News’ Jim Avila in an exclusive interview, his first since the crisis began. “I think that we all need to work through this problem together as Americans.”
When asked if he had enough agents, Kerlikowske said he did.
“[Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson] has just deployed an additional 150 agents to the Rio Grande Valley, and that is on top of the 115 that are already moving in. So I am confident that we have the resources,” Kerlikowske said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry disagrees and said on ABC’S “This Week” that the commissioner was wrong.
“He is absolutely and totally wrong,” Perry said. “The idea that there is equity and enough Border Patrol agents is totally and absolutely incorrect.”
Perry has called for the National Guard to be deployed to the border, but Kerlikowske said handling and processing these migrants is unique and the National Guard is unnecessary.
According to Kerlikowske, these mothers and child immigrants often to run towards U.S. agents, turning themselves in and seeking detainment. By law, border patrol agents have to take them in. Unlike migrants from Mexico — who can be deported almost immediately — U.S. law requires that migrants from non-contiguous states, like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, be treated as refugees and detained, evaluated, and processed through immigration court.
The Obama administration now hopes to give the Department of Homeland Security more discretion to fast-track deportations for all these Central American migrants.
In the meantime, Kerlikowske praised his agents for their work under a difficult situation.
“These agents have gone well beyond the call of duty, taking care of these kids, treating them with true compassion, with true heartfelt sympathy,” he said.
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