Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, May 8, 2019
ICE has already released 168,000 illegal immigrant family members into the U.S. this fiscal year, and the number is likely to surge as the border situation deteriorates, a top deportation official told Congress on Wednesday.
According to the results of a pilot program, a staggering 87% of released families are skipping their court hearings, leaving judges to order them deported in absentia — and the government is ill-equipped to track them down.
She revealed the numbers to senators Wednesday during a high-stakes hearing in which she and other immigration officials pleaded with Congress for more money and more legal tools to try to stop the surge of illegal immigrants.
Nearly 110,000 were nabbed at the southwestern border in April, including nearly 100,000 caught by the Border Patrol trying to sneak into the U.S. The other 10,000 were encountered when they showed up at ports of entry demanding to be let in, despite lacking permission.
Still more troubling is the number of illegal immigrants traveling as families, which neared 62,000 in April alone. That shattered the all-time monthly record and represented a doubling of the number from just three months earlier.
That surge is being fueled by lax U.S. policies, and particularly a court ruling in 2015 that illegal immigrant parents who travel with children must be released within 20 days. That is too little time to complete a court case, meaning the government has no choice but to set the families free on the vain hope that they return for deportation hearings.
A staggering 1% of the populations of Guatemala and Honduras have made the journey north to the U.S. and jumped the border in just the past seven months, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said this week.
If the trends continue, that number will be 2% by the end of this fiscal year in September.
[Chief Provost] said agents have caught 3,500 “fraudulent” families so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
Those include groups in which an adult brings a niece, nephew, grandchild or other relative and poses as a parent; in which an adult brings a child who is 18 or older and claims to be a juvenile; and even cases in which unrelated children are kidnapped, borrowed or sold to help someone pose as a parent.
A recent intensive enforcement by ICE found three in 10 families were suspect, Ms. Asher testified.
The witnesses asked Congress to change the 2015 court ruling so families can be detained, to alter a law to allow unaccompanied illegal immigrant children from Central America to be quickly deported, to add more beds to hold people awaiting deportation and to change the standards to cut down on asylum abuse.
Ms. Asher, though, said more judges won’t work unless Congress also pumps money into ICE for more prosecutors. She said it takes three lawyers to handle enough cases for every immigration judge and that unless ICE has space and power to detain people, they are difficult to deport.