Border Crisis Hearing: “It’s Real. It’s Serious. It is a Threat.”

The Hearing is ongoing and the story will be updated. Please return for latest updates and stories.

Commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan strongly rebuked claims by opponents Wednesday that the border is not a crisis. He said he “fundamentally disagrees” with those who called President Donald Trump’s national emergency a “fake emergency” and laid out a litany of statistics exposing the serious humanitarian crisis and national security implications for the United States. 

McAleenan spoke after opening statements from Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca, and Chairman Lindsey Graham gave their opening statements. 

The issues discussed ranged from drug smuggling, penetration of drug cartels deep in the United States and the counternarcotics efforts being addressed by Department of Homeland Security and its divisions. McAleenan argued — with statistics to back his claims — that Trump’s request for $5.7 billion for border wall infrastructure is an absolute necessity as part of a comprehensive plan to address the crisis.

The growing humanitarian crisis took precedence as well. McAleenan spoke at significant length about trans-national criminal trafficking organizations, which he said are expected to make roughly $2.5 billion a year off of illegal immigration into the U.S. alone. He addressed the long journey of children being trafficked into the U.S. In one example, he spoke of children from Guatemala, who travel more than 1500 miles under gruesome conditions. Some of the children spend more than 30 days being trafficked and are subjected to physical, sexual abuse and in many cases have contracted infectious diseases that threaten their lives, he said.

It’s not a manufactured crisis.  It’s not a cable television ploy. It is real.  It is serious.  It is a threat, Sen. Graham

Sen. Graham, R-SC, did not mince words.

“I want to be direct – contrary to what some political opponents and media outlets claim the situation at our southern border is dangerous and growing worse,” Graham said in his opening statement.

“It’s not a hoax. It’s not a manufactured crisis.  It’s not a cable television ploy. It is real.  It is serious.  It is a threat. And it poses a direct challenge to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States. To believe otherwise is to deny reality and ignore the facts,” he stated.

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The testimony provided by McAleenan backed up Graham’s statements. The commissioner laid out what Border Patrol agents have endured over the first months of the new year and how the increase in migration traffic has tied both the hands of agents and resources to protect the country. 

“I have heard a number of commentators observe that even with these alarming levels of migration, the numbers are lower than the historical peaks, and as a result, they suggest what we are seeing at the border today is not a crisis,” said McAleenan. “I fundamentally disagree. From the experience of our agents and officers on the ground, it is indeed both a border security—and a humanitarian—crisis.”

Two weeks ago, in a period of seven days Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley, sector apprehended more than 7,000 people crossing illegally into the country, said a Border Patrol Agent, who spoke to

“The numbers are staggering,” they said.

Family Units

McAleenan noted one reason why. He said the biggest issue is “for the first time in history, more than half of all those crossing are members of family units—typically one adult and one child.”

The Border Patrol has already apprehended more families crossing illegally than during all of last year, McAleenan said. McAleenan noted that 87 percent of illegal entries come through areas of the border outside of the Ports of Entry.

“We absolutely need barriers,” McAleenan told Sen. Graham during questioning. He added that the ten areas along the border selected to build a wall “is absolutely essential.”

“This is a brand new set of phenomenon with families and children,” McAleenan added. “The trends are going the wrong way.”

If the new laws are implemented, the border walls requested are built, then the criminal trafficking organizations won’t be able to promise the migrants refuge in the U.S., McAleenan accessed.

He noted that as of now 3,000 families a day are entering into the United States daily. And McAleenan projected that roughly 75,000 family units could enter the U.S. by May, which would be the highest on record.

Staggering Numbers

The number is staggering and Sen. Feinstein said “wow,” surprised at the growing numbers of illegal crossings this year.

“I find no reason to disagree with you,” said Feinstein to McAleenan with regard to keeping family units together and getting healthcare to children immediately. McAleenan spoke heartfelt about the two young children who died in Border Patrol custody but explained that  the Border Patrol has saved the lives of many illegal migrant children who arrive with severe medical issues.

Earlier in his testimony he noted “in the first four months of the fiscal year, CBP has encountered an average of 60,000 migrants crossing illegally and presenting at ports of entry without documents.

“In February, DHS projects that we will apprehend or encounter over 76,000 migrants, 87 percent of whom are being interdicted crossing the border illegally—a 25 percent increase from January, and what would be the highest February total in more than a decade. By the middle of March—less than six months into the fiscal year— we will have apprehended more people crossing illegally than all of FY 2017,” he said.

Border Patrol Statistics

He noted in his written testimony that illegal border crossings eclipsed the record total of last year by almost “30,000 in the first five months of FY 2019.”

  • February – roughly 40,000 family unit members in four weeks. “This represents an almost 340 percent increase, year-to-date, over last year,” McAleenan said.
  • Arrivals of unaccompanied children are also up 50 percent over this time last year, and exceeded 7,000 in February.
  • More than 27,000 children, with parents and unaccompanied to enter our immigration enforcement process in one month—approximately one-fifth of them 5 and under.
  • Immigration from Mexico remains at historically low levels.
  • However, the majority of illegal border crossings now come from the three countries of Central America, known as the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
  • Central American migrants exceeded the number of Mexican migrants in four of the past five years and has reached over 75 percent of crossings this fiscal year
  • The third major trend: Credible fear claims that keep them in the United States and from returning to their countries of origin.
  • In 2000 and 2013, less than one percent of those apprehended or encountered at our border claimed asylum or fear of return.
  • Last year, at our ports of entry, the number of asylum claims doubled to 38,269, with nearly 31 percent of those deemed inadmissible for entry filing a claim.
Children Saved By Border Patrol
  • BP agents have saved people who were drowning in rivers, who were gravely injured, and those who were left for dead by smugglers.
  • In total, Border Patrol agents rescued 4,311 individuals in FY 2018
  • In FY 2019 Border Patrol rescued 861 individuals in the first four months of FY 2019.

Illegal Unaccompanied Minors Cost To U.S. Taxpayer January 2019 Data  

  • The cost to the American taxpayer of an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC) is $375 per day.
  • The cost per UAC per year is $136,875.
  • As of January 4, 2019 there were 11,981 children in HHS care at a cost to the American taxpayer of more than $1.6 billion a year.