I saw firsthand the humanitarian and national security emergency that we face on our southern border last week, while meeting with the men and women of Customs and Border Protection in Nogales, Arizona. As those brave officers told me, we have a real crisis on our hands, and what’s driving it is the loopholes in our immigration laws that Congress has refused to close.
This crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Nearly 3,000 aliens are stopped trying to cross our southern border each day.
This crisis is threatening lives on both sides of the border – and to end it, Congress must act to close the loopholes that drug cartels and human traffickers use to entice vulnerable families to make the long and dangerous journey north to our southern border.
That begins with changing the federal asylum laws that encourage so many immigrants to try to cross our border illegally.
In fiscal year 2018, more than 90,000 aliens claimed to have a credible fear after being stopped at our border – a 2,000 percent increase from just a decade before. Nearly 90 percent of them were simply released into our country to wait for a court date. Yet ultimately less than one out of ten illegal immigrants from Central America claiming credible fear receive asylum.
This rampant abuse of our immigration system is also being driven by the Flores settlement agreement. Under this court precedent, minors who are apprehended crossing our border generally cannot be kept for more than 20 days in detention centers – requiring law enforcement to either separate children from their family members or release the entire family into the United States.
As President Trump made clear, the United States does not have a policy of separating children from their families – but Flores encourages adults to cross the border with a child in the hope of entering and staying in the United States. And it encourages childless adults – including gang members and drug traffickers – to use children to pose as families, in order to enter our country illegally and avoid deportation.
Finally, current law forces our federal law enforcement agencies to treat every unaccompanied minor from a non-neighboring country who crosses our border illegally for any reason as a victim of human trafficking – resulting in thousands from Central America being released into the United States.
Each of these loopholes is contributing to the humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border – and each of them requires Congress to act. Congress must return our asylum laws to their original purpose of helping victims of government persecution by raising the standard of proof for credible fear. And it must extend the period of time minors can be detained with their families so that they can remain together throughout the adjudication process.