Illegal arrivals at the U.S. southern border are set to hit one million by the end of fiscal year 2019, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress in prepared remarks Wednesday morning.
“The agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fiscal year than the entirety of FY17, and at the current pace we are on track to encounter close to one million illegal aliens at our southern border this year,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen’s testimony comes just one day after Customs and Border Patrol revealed that in February U.S. authorities apprehended or detained 75,000 illegal aliens constituting a 30 percent increase in illegal encounters or apprehensions over the previous month. Nielsen warned that “I can report today that CBP is forecasting the problem will get even worse this spring.”
Nielsen stressed that the capabilities of U.S. authorities are becoming stretched because of the unique nature of the situation. The vast majority of new arrivals at the border constitute family units from Central America claiming asylum.
U.S. officials say these families claim asylum to exploit loopholes in U.S. law that allow family units to be released into the interior of the country to await an appearance before an immigration judge.
“While many of them initially claim asylum and are let into the United States, only one in ten are ultimately granted asylum by an immigration judge. Unfortunately, when it comes time to remove the other 90 percent, they have often disappeared into the interior of our country,” Nielsen explained.
The DHS secretary’s testimony is intended to bolster President Donald Trump’s declaration that the situation on the southern border is a humanitarian crisis. Trump declared a national emergency at the border in mid-February which enables him to access military construction funds in order to begin building his proposed border wall.
Trump, however, is likely to face backlash within his own party after the House of Representatives passed a disapproval resolution of his national emergency. Four Republican senators said they will join their Democratic colleagues in voting for the resolution, setting up a situation where Trump may have to issue his first presidential veto.
Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent
Opposition to Migration on the Rise Worldwide, Says Pew Survey
A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that people across the world are increasingly losing their enthusiasm for migration.
Researchers at Pew conducted telephone or face-to-face interviews with responders in 27 nations in the spring of 2018 and compiled the results in a study published Dec. 10.
“As the number of international migrants reaches new highs,” wrote Pew Research Center’s Phillip Connor and Jens Manuel Krogstad, “people around the world show little appetite for more migration—both into and out of their countries.”
Nearly half of the survey responders worldwide voiced their opposition to more migration.
“Across the countries surveyed, a median of 45 percent say fewer or no immigrants should be allowed to move to their country,” the researcher duo wrote, “while 36 percent say they want about the same number of immigrants. Just 14 percent say their countries should allow more immigrants.”
UN Migration Pact
The Pew survey was published on the same day that only 164 countries out of 193 United Nations member countries signed a global pact meant to foster cooperation on migration.
Ten countries, including the United States, Australia, Hungary, and Poland, have rejected the Global Compact for Migration (GCM).
Six more, among them Israel and Bulgaria, are debating whether to pull out, a U.N. spokesman told Reuters after the pact was adopted in a signing ceremony in Marrakesh. He did not say whether the rest of the countries absent from the conference might also withdraw from the pact.
According to the U.N. website, the GCM provides a framework for facilitating safe and orderly migration globally, with an effort to deal with migration “in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”
It also sets out a range of actionable commitments, which could possibly influence legislation and policymaking for member states.
The compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation among countries to manage migration, and includes such aims as to “strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants” and “combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration.”
The pact has been criticized on grounds that it fails to draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal migration, that it could serve as an inspiration for individuals to engage in irregular migration, and that it purports to give transnational bodies a say in how any given sovereign country manages its borders.
People in other countries had attitudes towards migration that were broadly in line with European reluctance.
“Large majorities in Israel (73 percent), Russia (67 percent), South Africa (65 percent) and Argentina (61 percent) say their countries should let in fewer immigrants,” the researcher duo wrote in their findings.
“In every country surveyed,” they added, “less than a third say their nation should allow more immigrants to enter.”
A record 258 million people lived outside their country of birth in 2017, according to the U.N.
This is an increase of over 100 million compared to the year 1990, in which the total international migrant stock stood at 153 million.