WASHINGTON - Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan travelled to McAllen, Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday to assess the strategic and operational challenges faced by law enforcement and local communities as they work to confront the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis at the U.S. Southern Border.
The Acting Secretary joined the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Tuesday for a midnight shift tour of the U.S.-Mexico border – including key crossing points and staging areas central to human smuggling – in order to assess the strategic and operational challenges faced by law enforcement operations in the region. McAleenan expressed appreciation for agents’ unwavering dedication in the face of record migration flows and emphasized the necessity of remaining steadfast in executing DHS’ mission.
Currently, DHS facilities along the Southwest Border are at peak capacity, while officers and agents lack the resources to adequately administer humanitarian services to migrants.
On Wednesday, Acting Secretary McAleenan toured the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley (CCRGV), a local nongovernmental organization providing services to migrants once they are released from custody, followed by meetings with the members of the Center’s leadership. There, McAleenan discussed CCRGV’s needs related to the care of migrants in the area and expressed appreciation for the organization’s continued dedication to the vulnerable and migrant populations. McAleenan then hosted a roundtable with local mayors, stressing the need to work together to achieve security at the border while providing critical services to migrants.
“We recognize the strain that this humanitarian crisis has placed on service providers and communities such as yours along the border – it affects the men and women of DHS as well,” McAleenan emphasized. “We hope to better coordinate our efforts to manage the migrants in our care. But we are also working to address the factors driving this crisis.”
Throughout his trip, McAleenan reiterated that the border security emergency and humanitarian crisis are inextricably linked. In an address to the media, McAleenan explained that drug smugglers and human traffickers are using the humanitarian crisis as cover while DHS resources are diverted to medical care and other humanitarian duties associated with managing large groups of families.
The Acting Secretary also acknowledged the need for more resources to manage flows of families and provide care to children.
“We are taking aggressive action to mitigate the crisis, and protect vulnerable people in our custody by expanding medical care, creating temporary facilities, improving transportation, using additional resources from across DHS while seeking continued support from interagency partners throughout the Federal government,” he said.
The Acting Secretary called on Congress to enact legislation that will offer long-lasting solutions to the border crisis. “We are imploring Congress to provide the resources we need for enhancing our humanitarian and border security efforts, and, most importantly, to work with us on targeted solutions to restore integrity to our immigration system and remove the incentives for families and children to cross our border illegally.” Specifically, he requested legislative fixes that would allow DHS to hold families together in custody, treat all children equally by allowing the U.S. to return Central American children to their home countries, eliminate asylum fraud, and protect vulnerable populations by allowing individuals to apply for asylum from their home countries rather than taking the dangerous trek north.
DHS and its federal law enforcement partners are doing everything to confront the worsening security and humanitarian crisis. DHS has taken a full-fledged “disaster response,” including appointing a lead federal official for interagency action and leveraging the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). DHS agencies “surged” resources and personnel from across the Department toward border security and migration management, including immediately redeploying hundreds of CBP personnel from field operations and ports of entry to assist with the response to the crisis. By reassigning these personnel, USBP agents will be freed up from humanitarian response and enabled to return to critical security operations.
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