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Thank you for the introduction, Chief Hastings.
Good morning, everyone. And, thank you all for joining us as we celebrate this historic occasion for American border security. Today, we can confidently say our border is more secure now than at any time in our history.
I want to begin by recognizing the steadfast leadership of President Trump. Without the President’s vision and dedication, we would not be here today to celebrate the construction of nearly 400 miles of new state-of-the-art Border Wall System.
I want to thank Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan for his leadership and dedication to the mission of CBP. I also want to acknowledge Deputy Commission, Bob Perez, and Chief of the Border Patrol, Rodney Scott – it is truly a pleasure to serve with this outstanding team. The American people owe you and the men and women of CBP gratitude for the work you do every day to secure our borders.
Let me also thank Lieutenant General Scott Spellman and our colleagues with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their tremendous efforts to construct the border wall system.
And finally, let me thank all the hard-working men and women of all our wall contractors – you are all patriots and deserve the recognition of this Administration.
Today’s event is a testament to fulfilling the promises President Trump made to the American people nearly four years ago—to secure our borders and reform our broken immigration system.
When evaluating our progress and how we got to this point in time, I believe it is important to acknowledge all of the challenges that were before us more than 3 years ago.
Simply put—we inherited a broken and outdated border security and immigration system.
This system did not fully provide the men and women of DHS the resources and tools they required, and it incentivized and facilitated the smuggling and trafficking of illegal aliens into the country—where they were released into the interior and absconded without consequence.
President Trump has stated that a country without strong border security and a functioning immigration system that helps those in need while rooting out fraud and abuse, is in fact no country at all.
So, the Department got to work, and our results speak for themselves. Over the past 3.5 years:
We reached historic agreements with our Northern Triangle partners and with the Government of Mexico to stem illegal immigration.
We implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols, which ensures a safer and more orderly process along the Southwest Border, discourages individuals from making meritless asylum claims, and enables quick immigration results.
We have suspended asylum for individuals who traverse through a safe third country where they could seek asylum, but decided not to, and we expanded programs to fast-track the asylum review process.
We directed DHS law enforcement officers to no longer exempt classes of removable aliens from enforcement action—reversing a dangerous policy from the last Administration.
We uncovered massive fraud that victimized children and made them part of fraudulent families to take advantage of loopholes in our immigration system.
We ended the destructive practice of “catch and release.” In FY 2019, DHS released nearly 500,000 individuals into the country. But after making policy and operational changes, those numbers have dropped off the cliff. In FY 2020, that number was down to 15,000. A 96% decrease. And those that were released were released on humanitarian grounds.
And working closely with the CDC, we have prohibited the introduction of illegal aliens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding illegal aliens in congregate settings would have been a public-health catastrophe of historical proportions.
Because of this order, CBP is returning approximately 90% of individuals who would otherwise be kept in CBP facilities back to Mexico or their home country with 2 hours. There is no doubt that this administration’s COVID related measures at the border continues to save American lives.
This leads us to the prioritization, funding, and construction of an effective border wall system. The wall system is a critical component of the Department-wide multi-layered strategy we have implemented to secure our border.
After years of neglect, we drastically improved our nation’s ability to protect the American people from drug smugglers, gang members, and other criminals who seek to destroy our communities and our way of life.
Since President Trump took decisive action and declared the national security and humanitarian crisis that unfolded last year what it was—a national emergency—we have constructed the wall with unprecedented speed.
In January, we reached 100 miles.
In June, we reached 200 miles.
In August, we reached 300 miles.
And today, I am proud to stand before you as we celebrate the construction of nearly 400 miles of new Border Wall System.
While this is an important milestone, we are building even more wall. Currently, we have nearly 210 more miles under construction, and we expect to complete 450 miles by the end of the year.
Most reasonable Americans understand the need for an effective border wall system in targeted high-priority locations.
While some politicians and members of the press continue to question the need of a border wall system for political reasons, its effectiveness is without question.
Where the wall goes up, the number of illegal crossings—and crime—goes down. Put simply, “Walls Work.” Our Border Patrol agents know this. Perhaps more importantly, criminals know this.
Here in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, our Border Patrol agents observe that human smugglers are changing their tactics due to the wall system and are attempting to cross through areas that are easier to surveil.
In Zone 1 here in RGV, we have seen a 26 percent decrease in narcotics seizures since the start of border wall system construction.
In Yuma Sector, illegal entries in the areas with a border wall system decreased by 87 percent in Fiscal Year 2020 compared to FY 2019.
In Tucson Sector, narcotic seizures decreased in between the Ports of Entry between FY2019 and FY2020 thanks to capabilities provided to our agents by the wall system. Overall, drug seizures in the sector are down 25 percent.
And over the past four years, because each new mile of border wall system pushes the cartels to ports of entry or other areas that are easier to surveil, DHS has seized more than 4 million pounds of hard drugs like fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine—which is almost double the annualized amount of drugs seized between 2009 and 2017.
But if you still are not convinced, consider the following:
In areas where the new border wall system has been deployed, we will be able to redeploy thousands of Border Patrol agents per year to other areas of need.
In areas where new border wall system has been deployed, we now decide where border crossings take place—not smugglers. The wall system allows our agents to pick their battleground by forcing drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals to pass through areas easy to surveil or our Ports of Entry.
The wall has provided our Border Patrol agents:
- increased situational awareness,
- improved access and mobility,
- additional time to detect and apprehend individuals attempting to enter our country illegally.
In urban areas, the Border Wall System mitigates illegal border crossers’ ability to quickly vanish into public settings and improves the effectiveness and efficiency of agent responses.
I understand that our critics have policy differences regarding the construction of the border wall system. While I appreciate those concerns, everything we have accomplished has been within our legal authority and vindicated by the courts.
We look forward to continued dialogue with our stakeholders, but at the end of the day, we will continue to build the wall system as this is an issue of national and homeland security.
The progress we are celebrating here did not happen by accident. The many miles of border wall system exists because of the will and vision of President Trump, and the dedication and hard work of the men and women of DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers and our colleagues from across the Administration.
As we stand here today, it is important we do not lose sight of the challenges we overcame to keep this important promise. Whether it was pushback from our critics in Congress, impediments from the courts, or outright lies in the media, we prevailed.
In April 2017, the Washington Post ran a headline: “Sorry, Trump Voter, You Got Scammed. You’re Never Going to Get Your Wall.”
In September 2018, the LA Times ran a headline: “A Promise Trump Can’t Keep? His Window to ‘Build the Wall’ is Closing.”
In 2019, Speaker Pelosi said that President Trump has not built any new wall.
Not only has the media and politicians been proven wrong, they have been proven wrong 400 times—and counting.
If you take a look at the headlines today, they tell a very a different story. Even our most ardent critics recognize the wall is being built, and under this Administration, we will continue to be build more wall because it is simple:
A wall system is effective.
A wall system saves lives.
A wall system protects our national sovereignty.
In short, “Walls Work.”
Unfortunately, this criticism isn’t surprising or unique. Many of these same critics have been critical of law enforcement in recent months – wanting to cut funding and branding all law enforcement officers as racists.
In fact, it was just over three months ago when Speaker
Pelosi described DHS law enforcement officers – to include CBP officers—as “stormtroopers.” An utterly disgraceful remark.
It’s time to put politics aside and support our law enforcement and our Border Patrol. The wall system is a fundamental national security asset critical to the efforts of thousands of Border Patrol agents working tirelessly to secure our border.
If you are against the wall, you are against the men and women of CBP. It’s that simple.
Without the wall system and the vast array of immigration policies this Administration has implemented, our border would be less secure, less orderly, and more ineffective in dealing with the cartels and criminal organizations across the border.
Unfortunately, the men and women of the Border Patrol have seen that reality. It was a short time ago in 2019 that we were in the midst of a national security and humanitarian crisis at our border. During this time, for several months, more than 100,000 illegal aliens crossed into our borders and were released into our communities.
While the Trump Administration took decisive action, leading to a drop in numbers through late 2019 and early 2020, those numbers are beginning to increase once again.
Illegal immigration is trending up over this time last year, and if current trends hold, October could be one of the highest months for illegal crossings in some time.
The only reason we haven’t reached another crisis level is because of the policies and procedures this administration has put into place—including the construction of the border wall system.
It’s plain to see. These measures protect Americans because they work. Because they are effective.
Abolishing these measures and reversing course is no way forward. But that is preciously what our critics are proposing. They want to:
Block the removal of criminal aliens;
Resume catch and release;
Return to a broken asylum system;
Walk away from historic international agreements; and
Stop construction and dismantle the effective border wall system.
These are not just bad policies, they are dangerous.
Let me be crystal clear: each of these measures would endanger the lives of the Border Patrol and Americans across the country.
Public safety should not be a political issue. And as long as I am leading the men and women of DHS, I will put the safety of the American people ahead of politics.
Before I conclude, I would once again like to thank President Trump for prioritizing the border wall system and for supporting the men and women of DHS as we work to secure the Homeland.
Our journey to 400 miles certainly has not been easy—we have seen more than our fair share of unwarranted criticism and we have had to manage several impediments along the way—but I am proud of the work we have accomplished thus far.
Promises were made, and promises have been kept.
But as I mentioned earlier, there is still a lot of work to be done, and DHS will not rest until we have finished the job.
As the old saying goes, many hands make light work. And so, I would ask that our political leaders, the media, and the American people continue to support us as we build the border wall system. We are performing this important work on behalf of all Americans, and we deeply appreciate all the support as we work to secure our borders and the Homeland.
Thank you all for being here today. I would now like to turn it over Acting Commissioner Morgan, who will provide more details regarding our success.