When even former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson from the Obama administration says there is a crisis at the border, you know it’s getting bad down there.
“By anyone’s definition, by any measure, right now we have a crisis at our southern border,” Johnson said on Cavuto Live, noting “there were 4,000 apprehensions in one day alone this past week, and we’re on pace for 100,000 apprehensions on our southern border this month.”
100,000 apprehensions would be even higher than February, which according to Customs and Border Patrol data set a decade monthly high of 76,103 apprehensions as drugs, gangs and human traffickers continue to press on the border.
The migrant caravans are getting larger than ever.
Johnson added, “That is by far a greater number than anything I saw on my watch in my three years as secretary of Homeland Security.” He’s right.
Apprehensions in 2018 averaged about 43,424 monthly, 34,626 in 2017, 46,114 in 2016, 37,071 in 2015 and 47,436 in 2014.
The is occurring as the southern border is being flooded with more illegal immigrants than the current federal system in place can reasonably process within the legally mandated 20 days to adjudicate asylum claims and the like. As a result, the torrent is forcing by law a catch-and-release program as the system is overwhelmed.
Now, President Donald Trump is threatening to close the entire southern border or large sections of it entirely to stem the flow. On March 29, he tweeted, “If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug[h] our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING… the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.”
On April 3, Trump doubled down on the threat, demanding Congress get involved to eliminate legal requirements for catch-and-release: “Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border! If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!”
As a stopgap measure, the Border Patrol will be attempting a pilot program within weeks that will allow agents to double as asylum officers to expedite processing.
If the current system is so overwhelmed that individuals cannot even be processed and adjudicated in a timely enough manner before they have to be released, then Trump was right all along. The border is not secure and the current system under the laws is broken.
And now, even former Obama administration officials have to admit there is a crisis. So, what changed?
Perhaps in a post-Mueller report world with no collusion, Democrats have to finally take account of the real reasons that President Trump won the 2016 election on issues like illegal immigration. If so, expect Democrats in Congress to also start to slowly move in the President’s direction on other issues like trade — new trade deals are pending before Congress with Mexico, Canada and South Korea with other agreements with Japan, the UK and Europe in the works — and infrastructure.
If the migrant caravans have figured out that all they have to do is overwhelm the system with numbers and they automatically get released, then the President is running out of options
In the meantime, watch for Trump to make good on his threat to shut the border down by deploying the military, closing ports of entry and cracking down on remittances while the border wall is still being constructed. Unlike other presidents, he is addressing this crisis.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.