Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson addressed the state of the nation’s border security last week, with a particular emphasis on the southern border.
“In February 2016, apprehensions by the Border Patrol on our southwest border – an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally – increased slightly from January, but remained substantially below the month-to-month numbers of apprehensions we saw in the latter part of 2015,” Johnson said. “The numbers of unaccompanied children and family members remained at the same levels as January, which is greatly reduced from the apprehension numbers at the end of 2015. The overall 10 percent increase from January is due to an increase in apprehensions of single adults, from 17,505 in January to 19,917 in February, 71.5 percent of whom are from Mexico. Notably, one year ago, in February 2015, the number of apprehensions of single adults was 19,950, and in February 2014 the number was 28,277.”
Johnson added that since Jan. 23, the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has taken into custody 336 individuals as part of Operation Border Guardian, originally put in place in January 2014.
“As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration,” Johnson said. “If someone was apprehended at the border, has been ordered removed by an immigration court, has no pending appeal, and does not qualify for asylum or other relief from removal under our laws, he or she must be sent home. We must and we will enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities.”
ICE has repatriated a total of 28,808 individuals to Central America, while ICE and Border Patrol have either repatriated or returned approximately 128,000 to Mexico since October 1.
“I have also been working closely with the Department of Justice to ensure that as many unaccompanied children as possible have appropriate representation during immigration proceedings,” Johnson said. “We support improving the process for all those in immigration proceedings and have requested over $17 million as part of the President’s FY17 budget request to support critical initiatives that provide legal assistance services to vulnerable immigrants, including $2 million for Justice AmeriCorps – a program that specifically provides legal representation to unaccompanied minors. We need every element of the court process to work effectively to accomplish the goal of both honoring humanitarian claims and processing those who do not qualify for relief.”