U.S. border patrol officers caught more than 400,000 people crossing the Mexican border in the fiscal year that ended last month, up 23 percent from the year before. But immigration experts say even more got through.
The Department of Homeland Security reported this week that apprehensions increased to 408,870 in fiscal year 2016, including 59,692 unaccompanied children and 77,674 family members. The total number of apprehensions was less than in fiscal year 2014.
“They’re purposely leaving that number out because it would be an outrageous number. There’s [sic] obvious holes in that report. They don’t want the American public to know everything.”
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The government did not say how many of those caught went back to their home countries, nor did officials attempt to estimate how many people slipped through. But Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told LifeZette that border officers generally believe one person makes it through for every one who is caught. That is in line with a still-unreleased study commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Associated Press.
“They’re purposely leaving that number out because it would be an outrageous number,” he said. “There’s [sic] obvious holes in that report. They don’t want the American public to know everything.”
Even among those who are caught, Judd said, only about 30 percent are deported because of various policies of President Obama’s administration. Adding them to the number making it across undetected results in an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrants who passed into the United States from Mexico in fiscal year 2016.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who chairs a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over immigration, said Tuesday that the figures released this week indicate that border security is becoming more lax.
“Statistics published yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security finally admit what the American people have long known to be true: Our southern border is not secure, and illegal immigration is surging,” he said in a prepared statement.
Judd agreed the increased apprehensions do not suggest that border agents are doing a better job.
[lz_table title=”Southwest Border Apprehensions Up” source=”Department of Homeland Security”]Fiscal Year,Apprehensions
“That’s just more people coming,” he said.
Sessions pointed to statistics the Obama administration provided to his subcommittee earlier this year that said 96.7 percent of the unaccompanied children apprehended in the previous 2.5 years have been allowed to stay.
“The Obama administration’s open-border policies have made our country less secure than we were eight years ago, eviscerated any semblance of credibility in our immigration system, and have created an ever-growing financial burden on U.S. taxpayers,” he said in the statement. “The country cannot sustain this course. The Obama administration and the special interests may not believe in secure borders, but the American people do.”
Most of the children who have come without parents the last few years have been released to family members in the United States, usually with a promise to show up for a hearing before an immigration judge, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. But it can take years for those hearings to take place because of a backlog, and about half are skipping hearings when their court dates do arrive, she said.
“Almost all of them basically get to stay unless they are arrested or age out,” said Vaughan, whose Washington-based think tank favors more aggressive immigration enforcement.
Vaughan said Judd’s estimate of the number of illegal immigrants making it undetected may be high since most minors coming to the border turn themselves over to authorities as soon as they can. But she agreed that policy choices have boosted the numbers of illegal immigrants who end up in the United States.
Vaughan said the administration should make quick decisions about whether children at the border have asylum claims and then immediately turn out those who do not. For those who do make claims, she added, an immigration judge should make a fast determination rather than setting hearings years in advance. Most do not meet the criteria under U.S. law, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be this drawn-out process that encourages people to stay,” he said. “They’re coming because they know they will be allowed to stay.”