DHS secretary Nielsen defends Trump immigration policies

"The truth is that the politics and policies of open borders have failed the American people," Nielsen said in a statement Wednesday.
10:17 | 03/06/19

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Transcript for DHS secretary Nielsen defends Trump immigration policies
Chairman Thompson ranking member of Rodgers and distinguished members of the committee is my honor to appear before you today. Before it again I went in at that our department has many missions are people who worked tirelessly every day around the clock. To strengthen the safety and security of the American people against terrorists transnational criminal organizations. Hackers red nation states natural disasters and more. Elena plop him ways for their extraordinary vigilance in protecting a song from persistent and emerging threats. But today I want to focus on one core mission in particular our duty to secure our borders. This is one of the highest priorities of our president this administration and my department. Indeed it is among the most fundamental responsibilities. Of any sovereign nation. I want to start by stressing that our country remains at beacon of hope. Freedom and opportunity to the world we welcome more immigrants temporary workers and foreign travelers every year. Any other nation on earth. Each year more than one million people become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Legal immigration has been a bedrock of this country we want to strengthen legal immigration and welcome more individuals. You're a merit based system that enhances our economic vitality. And vibrancy of our first nation. We also continued to uphold our humanitarian ideals. That. And threatening public safety and national security. We face a crisis. A real serious and sustained crisis at our borders. We have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at her doorstep every month. We have drugs criminals and violence spilling into our country every week and we had smugglers and traffickers profiting from human misery every single day. I exploiting people who are seeking a better life. Deceiving them about our laws and fueling everything from sexual slavery to child exploitation to the smuggling of illicit it's. Make no mistake this chain of human misery is getting worse. Yesterday we announced that the numbers of apprehension outer southern border have spiked again substantially. It's atlas and sleaze last year we have been seeing fifty to 60000 migrants arrive at our southern border each month. And in February we saw a 30% jump over the previous month with agents apprehending or encountering nearly 75000. Aliens. This is an 80% increase over the same time last year. And I can report today that CBP is forecasting the problem will get evening hours this spring. As a weather warms up. The projections are dire agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fiscal year. In the entirety of at flies seventeen. And at the current pace we're on track to encounter close to one million. Our capacities are ready severely restrained but these increases will overwhelm the system entirely. This is not a manufactured crisis this is truly an emergency. What's different about the current migrant flows in this is important is not just how many people are coming but who is arriving. Historically illegal aliens crossing into the United States' for predominantly single adult males from Mexico with new legal right Tuesday. And who he could quickly detained and removed within 48 hours. But in recent years we have seen the numbers of vulnerable populations children and families skyrocket. Over 60% of the current flow are keenly units and unaccompanied alien children and 60%. Are non Mexican. Because it outdated laws misguided effort decisions and a massive backlog of cases we are often forced to release these groups in the United States. And we have virtually no hope ever leaving them in the future. And importantly our ability to help those truly in need is severely limit. The vast injuries individuals are from Central America. On many of them initially claimed asylum and are let in the United States only one in again. Are ultimately granted asylum by immigration touch. Unfortunately when it comes time threw me of the other 90% they have often disappeared into the interior of her country. Smugglers and traffickers have caught on realizing that outdated laws lack of resources. And backward decisions effectively give them a free ticket into America. Information about the weaknesses in our system has spread quickly in Central America in fact they are advertised. And are booming economy under president Tran has made it dangerous journey even more attractive. Let's as a result of affluent families and children has become a flat and the past five years we have seen as 620%. Increase in families. Or those posing as families apprehended at the border. This last fiscal year was the highest on record. And of great concern to me is that the children are being used as ponds to get into our country. We have encountered in cycling recycling reigns where innocent young people are used multiple times to help aliens schemes illegal entry. As a nation we simply cannot stand for this we must fix the system. Today's migrant flows have created a humanitarian. Catastrophe. In one study more than 30% of women report sexual assault along the way and 70% of all migrants reported experiencing. Its. Smugglers and traffickers are forcing migrants into inhumane conditions. Demanding extraordinary sums of money and putting their lives in danger. And vulnerable populations especially children are coming into DHS. Sicker than ever before. This is also a public safety and national security crisis TCO's are using the situation to line their pockets. Fueling a rise in other Eli illegal activity and the spread of violent crime into our country. And members are smuggling new recruits into the United States receive EP recording a 50%. Spike. Over the last fiscal year of the number of asking members apprehended at the southern border owlen. And DHS personnel are grappling Dee Lee with the movement of drugs illicit goods and unknown threat actors coming across the borders. So what are you do an about us. At the president's direction we are confronting it head on anyways let me try to quickly summarize. We've championed a border while system which includes infrastructure technology an additional person now. We've implemented virtually every measure within our authority and catch and release to keep aliens with no legal right to this day from being released into our country. Weaver took the Pentagon to deploy troops to the southern border which is helped us achieve tens of thousands of apprehensions. And turn backs of illegal aliens. We dramatically increase referrals for prosecutions of single adults illegally crossing the border. From 12% at the start of the administration to nearly 50% today. We have worked tirelessly with the northern triangle countries. I myself can attest he many trips that I need and the conversations and negotiations I've had. To deal at their root causes of migration and to address the challenges at the source. I talked to my counterparts in Central America almost weekly travel down their regularly. And this month I'm happy to report that we expect to sign historic regional compacts the first at our. With those countries. Account or irregular migration human smuggling trafficking and the formation of hair hands. This is something I've been pursuing for years and we'll have a real effect on us crisis. We stepped up efforts to protect women and children from being abused kidnapped sexually assaulted in exploited upon dangerous journey. And are doing more to dismantle TC ads including a concerted inner agency action. And deeper foreign partnerships. Even intensified operations to seize illicit drugs especially appealing as near smuggled into the US including the deployment of new technology. We're putting in place important measures to reduce asylum fraud city can better hope those who are truly fleeing persecution. This includes having certain individual's weight in Mexico until their claims are processed. And we're there for humanitarian protection. To ensure that the Flacco is safe and orderly. But it's simply still not enough. We need congress acts that we can take operational control of the border as congress directed us in line QQ. To protect vulnerable populations to reduce the life ending flu drugs into America. And to confront the scored just human trafficking without congressional action Americans America's borders. Never cease to care. Until we deal at the outdated laws contribute to this problem the situation will only get worse simply claim the laws are not keeping the migrant flows. The gaps in the system are obvious. Just as loss must be revised to address technological advances in emerging threats so too must the laws be changed her dress vastly. Different circumstances at the border. If migrants arrive the children can only detain him for days and then we have to release them even when they have no legal right to this day. We cannot keep and together as a fee and three release humorous story. Late suited to beanie we need congress to change the law to permit and we unity to ensure the safe and on return UDC's back to their home countries and to close loopholes that allowed dangerous criminals together at least into our communities. Happy day in response to questions talk more activities have been aren't buying them. But having just like to you can they admire her by asking. For congress to work with me I'm happy to meet with anyone that has suggested solution. No rational person would design an immigration system like we have today. It's dangerous for Americans its dangers from migrants it undermines our nation's values it feels to uphold our fundamental obligations to the American people. Although we may disagree on solutions I hope there can be consensus. That the current system isn't working. And not this is an emergency Massey asked other experts here questions thank chairman.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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