House Committee on Homeland Security member speaks after CBP shares border stats

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small gives a preview of questions she plans to ask DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at upcoming hearing amid skyrocketing number of border crossings.
8:43 | 03/05/19

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Transcript for House Committee on Homeland Security member speaks after CBP shares border stats
You may or call the case of seven year old Jacqueline call of Guatemala who died in December and Customs and Border Protection custody. There you see Jacqueline she had crossed the border near antelope wells' New Mexico remote isolated area about 700. A 170 miles southwest of El Paso, Texas you see it there on the map. And that it is the home district congressional district of our next guest congresswoman so she'll tore a small she's also chairwoman of the hot house homeland security oversight committee great to have you with this congresswoman. I think so much for being here want to get your reaction. To these numbers just coming in pretty striking and why do you think they're skyrocketing. Well this is part. Of an ongoing trend that we're seeing when it comes to the changing demographics of people who are. At the border instead of seeing single men who are often. Coming from Mexico and trying to evade detection we're seeing more families and that are voluntarily presenting at the border. And as we see this increase that the big question is how do we make sure that CBP is an agency that can adapt to these changing circumstances. In a way that. Allows us to continue to enforce the law make sure that we are prioritizing border security and also reflecting our values when it comes to making sure that agents that communities and that children their parents are safe. It are you confident that we're prepared for this influx which doesn't seem to be a beating. I hit it as I'm going to be we're having a hearing tomorrow with secretary Neal sent and one of the questions is how have you worked to make sure that you have resource is in the right place to become increasingly flexible. And one of the important aspects of that is making sure that we have a good relationship in congress. As we work to solve these problems together that there's transparency about the numbers there's transparency about the changes in protocol that we have so that we can adapt to these changing circumstance. In the circumstances are changing in those families keep coming and the numbers keep going up month by month want to bring in now another guest Erica. And he'll let she is said joining us from Phoenix Arizona she's a refugee. With the refugee and immigrant center for education and legal services to nonprofit group that's helping a lot of these families caught up in the air humanitarian situation the border Eric are great to see you. What's your understanding the current state of play. With families coming across what happens to them as the congresswoman just said when they present themselves Seeking Asylum what happens next. Yeah well first stop look figure how to New Bedford. They're armor all well art choose not go to a quarter of intrigue. And that there's there's a lot more hurdles you're not being able to express ayalon. Hung you know there through the bullet he let return to practical policy our remaining like he's being actually. Any book I after they asked what island and certainly not individual or an act. I'm a lot more there's a lot of restrictions on how we can actually present as well and you know every day at ports of entry and so. You know quote aren't we asked her at that mean there is patent. About 2000 well aware recently putting to the old factory and it doesn't it may well. And there are well basically I'm in the Mexican government cooperate with egg with. That your government you know that are using carrying what the medical eatery you actually men. And still all of it is called in for people to you know that I cropping all we need ports of entry. Which is very dangerous which is what we don't want happening you wonder treat people humanely as they're trying to beat her her life. And and what's your understanding of why the numbers keep going up so significantly mean 66000. Individuals last month alone. Record number of families 300% increase. I think most people can understand the reasons that a lot of these migrants are seeking a better life many of them are very impoverished families children. Most from Central America moving up through Mexico to showing up at the border Seeking Asylum but. That's been true for years why now this huge influx just in the past year or so. You know they're and they are many many. What we know is that it is a reality and a lot of a lot of individuals let the client is here or grace says in the work that we do. They have Ingrid just really really does in stories of either islands. Property. You know it it going out and it says in reality. Well lancry. When they're you know living conditions it worse worst thing lancry and it and it crashed early it happened. The senate colleague the united think going to respond to the and the answer is not a wall cancer if not you know eighteen children away from their parents what they. And none of those were cancer free now we need to figure out there were variations that. And we create a way where Arabs seekers that's how the ability or UA I'll wait to convene the united they. In countries where there are not going to be hard it what are going to have a better life. It in a caravan asylum seekers has been front and center and so much of the debate just in the past couple of months particularly after the death of Jacqueline call. The reports of abuse widespread abuse in US facilities. Recently at the White House the Homeland Security secretary Kirsten Nielsen offered these assurances about what her department is doing to make things better take a listen. Beauty and to ensure that medical care but he. Didn't see he threw me and let it pack it don't happen facility. Derby vs the legal authorities to keep up his grades. And congresswoman that tore a small back to you on this you visited a lot of these facilities that are in your district. Down there on the New Mexico Mexico border. How confident are you that DH SH HS have learned the lessons from the death of Jacqueline call and others it do you get the sense that. More on the upswing in terms of care for these asylum seekers. Listen that's going to be a key focus they hearing tomorrow is is asking those questions about what have you learned from the investigations. Of these two deaths and how are you implementing them I had robust conversations with that would medical experts on the border. Both within the community and the rural health care infrastructure that is is often. Helping address this crisis as well as within DHS. And we have to make sure that need to stop gaps that that are being put in place now turning into policies to make sure that people are screened adequately when they when they present. At and make sure that they are receiving the care that they need. And and meanwhile we have to address the larger challenges of fundamental piece of border security is a clear and moral immigration system. And we have to make sure that that our rules are clear but also that there is a way to address this in front. And before we let you go congress and I was struck by an interview he gave recently. And you were talking a little bit about the wall. And you you made the point the goal of building a wall all along much of the open border in your district. I would not solve the asylum problem because as you said there would have to be a small patch of land actual US soil. Between the law and Mexico which wouldn't do anything to stop those asylum seekers from stepping foot. On there that's absolutely correct so I I think the only look at border security we have to take at I am mile by mile an hour cents to make sure that we look at the time it takes to enter into another Canadian avoid detection. And the time it takes for Border Patrol agents to approach and to do the interdiction but that's all for people who are trying to avoid detection. And and what we're seeing now in the increase in numbers as people who are voluntarily presenting at the border and that requires a whole different process in terms. What it looks like two to inner decked and then process those people who eventually may claim asylum. And that's why my focus has been how do we make sure that this agency that CPP is prepared to make adjustments as they see changes in trends we've seen this in this. Start in 2014 in terms of more families so it really is time that we start having protocols to address that's me should be more prepared than we are. And we know you're gonna press the Homeland Security secretary tomorrow when she comes before your committee are represented insists she'll toward a small thanks so much it's great to see you. I hear in the ABC news live briefing room hope you'll come back and join us again and we'll check back with you tomorrow as well think you.

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

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