Border Patrol agents have been reduced to “professional child care providers” for illegal immigrants, warming burritos and babysitting the families and unaccompanied children who are surging across the border at an increasing rate, the agents’ frustrated chief told Congress on Wednesday.
Chief Mark Morgan, who was tapped to lead the agency in June, said he has had to pull hundreds of his agents from patrolling against drugs and illegal border crossers in Arizona and California and shipped them to Texas, where they would be manning what amounts to day care holding centers, stocking baby powder and placing requisition orders for baby wipes.
“Agents, one of their jobs during the day, is to make sure the burritos that are being provided are being warmed properly,” he told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“It really is child care professional stuff that we’re doing: clothing them, feeding them, making sure that they get the medical attention, making sure that they’re able to sleep, making sure that they get appropriate meals during the day, make sure they have snacks, that meals are warm,” he said.
The Obama administration has struggled to handle the surge of 68,445 people traveling as families and another 68,541 unaccompanied children — those traveling without parents — jumping the U.S. border in 2014. The numbers dipped in 2015 but surged back in fiscal year 2016, with 59,692 unaccompanied minors and a record 77,674 family members.
In October, the first month of fiscal year 2017, some 13,124 family members and 6,754 unaccompanied children were nabbed.
Some of the stories of those who have crossed are heart-rending.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat, said he encountered a Guatemalan boy in his home state who fled with his sister after encountering a gang back home. The teenager at first resisted joining but was told someone in his family would be killed if he refused, so he joined.
He balked when he was told that his initiation would be to rape his 13-year-old sister. That was when his parents decided to send both of them to the U.S., Mr. Carper said.
Chief Morgan said those are the kinds of cases that deserve special humanitarian relief. But he said too many illegal immigrants have learned to game the U.S. system by using code words and, according to intelligence analysts, fabricating stories to gain lenient treatment. Smugglers teach the migrants what to say, Chief Morgan said.
“We know that they’re coaching individuals on specifically what to say when they come here. They just rattle off and they memorize the magic words that they need to say so they’ll fall within the statute of credible fear,” the chief said.
He said the way to stem the flow is to convince would-be migrants that they will be stopped and deported — what he called a “consequence delivery system.”
“The reality is they come to the borders and they are being released. What that does is it sends a strong message to those folks in the country that if you get to the United States border, we’re going to let you in,” he said.
He said “basically 100 percent” of the children and families his agents are catching are being released into the U.S.