Border patrol chief Carla Provost testified to Congress that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is just like the president has been describing, it’s a national security crisis.
“There is an ongoing debate as to whether this constitutes a border security crisis or a humanitarian crisis. Let me be clear, it is both,” Provost said Tuesday during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Democrats disagree with Provost’s comments claims because border apprehensions are down considerably from 20 years ago, there is no actual crisis. While the 361,000 people the Border Patrol caught in fiscal year 2018 is less than half of the 1 million who were caught in the 1990s and 2000s, Provost says there is more to the numbers than meets the eye.
“I’ve been asked many times how the current situation can be a crisis compared to years when we surpassed 1 million apprehensions,” the Border Patrol chief said to lawmakers. “To understand the numbers, you have to look at what’s happening on the ground.”
The Daily Caller reported:
In years past, the majority of those apprehended at the border were Mexican nationals who, after taken into custody and documented by Border Patrol, were handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations office for deportation. In present time, more than half of all border apprehensions are Central American children or families. Due to a 2008 trafficking law, the children cannot be immediately deported because they are not from Mexico or Canada.
Provost says the demographic changes have stretched her agency thin.
“Each day, nearly 25 percent of my agents are diverted away from our border security mission to care for, transport and process family members and unaccompanied children,” she said Tuesday. “We know that when agents are occupied, narcotics smugglers, criminal aliens, gang members and others use the opportunity to violate our borders and our laws.”
Agents are being challenged with other requests that are clogging their operations, in addition to the demographic changes. Many of the apprehended migrants are asking for medical care, requiring around 5,000 of her 2,000 agents to care and transport them to medical centers instead of manning the southern border.
Provost’s comments fly in the face of numerous Democratic critics who have deemed Trump’s crisis declaration a “fake emergency.” Congressional Democrats on Tuesday voted to block Trump’s emergency declaration, and a number of progressive groups are suing to block the move in court.
Trump is using the declaration to secure a total of $8 billion to fund wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The federal agency in charge of securing the nation’s borders is being led by a woman for the first time in its 90-year history.
President Donald Trump named Provost as acting chief in April 2017. But with her official appointment in August 2018, she became responsible for securing more than 6,000 miles of land borders with Mexico and Canada, and overseeing more than 19,000 agents — the vast majority of which are male.
Provost acknowledged the significance of her appointment, as well as existing gender disparities, during a press conference in August at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“The Border Patrol has been at about 5 percent of women my entire career,” she said. “But I can tell you we are seeing more and more women rise through the ranks and into senior positions. And I believe that this will help with the recruitment.”
Provost’s appointment comes at a critical time for the agency, when it faces several challenges despite historic drops in the number of migrants it apprehends trying to enter the U.S. illegally through the southwest border.
For years, the agency has failed to meet its recruitment goals, and the lack of retention of existing agents has contributed to the agency’s staffing and hiring woes — even as Congress and Trump have provided additional funding to hire more agents.
“Her career has been marked by her tendency to take on on the most challenging roles in the most challenging areas of our border and our agency,” said Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner for Customs and Border Protection and Provost’s boss.