'Unprecedented surge' of families coming to the border is 'overwhelming' immigration system, nonpartisan group says

A report from the nonpartisan group calls for emergency actions at the border.

April 17, 2019, 2:59 PM

A newly released report by the nonpartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council found that there is an "unprecedented family unit (FMU) migration from Central America is overwhelming our border agencies and our immigration system."

The report, released overnight, details the challenges facing families crossing the southern border. The Council "comprises leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia," according to the DHS website.

"The surge in FMU migration will continue to soar, endangering more and more children making the treacherous 2,000 mile trek to our border and crossing illegally into the U.S. at dangerous and remote areas between ports of entry (POE), until the dynamics causing this trend are changed," the report said.

The report says that the influx of families crossing the border rose by 600% in the last year.

"Over 53,000 FMU were apprehended last month alone by the Border Patrol, and at the current trajectory, that number of FMU apprehensions is likely to exceed 500,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019," the report continued.

They say that "tender age children" are at the heart of the crisis saying that "73%, of the children in FMUs illegally crossing our border are tender aged, being 12 or younger." It should come as no surprise that criminal organizations are preying on "desperate populations," the report said.

"The unprecedented surge in unaccompanied children and family unit migration is overwhelming our ability to provide humanitarian aid within our immigration system. The reasonable changes proposed by this nonpartisan panel, could dramatically reduce migration of family units from Central America, help eliminate dangerous and illegal border crossings, as well as improve the care of children who are brought on this harrowing journey," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement responding to the report. "These recommendations are essential to secure our border and for the safety and welfare of children living in Central America and elsewhere who will continue to make this dangerous trek north."

The report says that families should not be separated but "current laws do not give CBP discretion to keep children together with a grandparent or other close relative acting in a guardian-type role other than their parent."

PHOTO: Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The Homeland Security Council proposed changes such as a regional processing center along the border.

The advisers suggest that the centers have a staff of 3 to 4 to "shelter all FMUs apprehended at the border and, among other things, provide safe and sanitary shelter, to include medical screening and care, credible fear examinations, vetting for identity and familial relationship, and evaluations for public health and safety, national security and flight risk."

They also recommend that Congress enact legislation to faster the asylum processing and enact a "Flores Fix."

The name stems from the Flores Decision, which set limits on how much time a child can be incarcerated; right now it is at 20 days.

"Roll back the Flores Decision by exempting children accompanied by a parent or relative, who is acting as the guardian of the child. DHS also should be given discretion to detain a close relative with a non-parent family member when this is in the best interest of the child," the council recommended.

They also suggest an amendment to the Immigration Nationality Acts that require border crosser's to make asylum claims at ports of entry. This would be a departure from current law which allows border crossers to make claims when they are arrested.

"Simultaneously, CBP will be resourced to begin processing all asylum claims initially presented at a POE and put an end to metering. This can and should occur promptly after this recommendation and Recommendations 1 and 2, above, are implemented."

John Cohen, a former Acting DHS Undersecretary pointed out the juxtaposition between the attorney general's opinion on asylum seekers and this report.

He said it was the "bipolar nature of the administration's policy at the border."

Cohen says that as of now it is "stunning" that the government has no operation plan to deal with "conditions that have been deteriorating at the border quite sometime."

Other recommendations include working together with Mexican and Central American countries to "establish a secure shelter to process asylum claimants."

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