Customs and Border Protection Chief Carla Provost addressed criticisms that the current situation at the border is not an emergency despite President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
During testimony before Congress, Provost noted that while there have been problems at the border for several years, recent trends have elevated the situation to emergency status.
Provost told Congress that arguments between Republicans and Democrats about whether it is a security crisis or a humanitarian crisis are irrelevant because “it’s both.”
Watch the video below:
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost on the situation at the border: "There is an ongoing debate about whether this constitutes a border security crisis or a humanitarian crisis. Let me be clear: it is both." pic.twitter.com/pB2OpkyvaE
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 26, 2019
“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. As more migrants arrive with medical needs, agents are transporting and escorting an average of 55 people a day to medical facilities. We are committed to addressing this humanitarian need, but 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. There is an ongoing debate about whether this constitutes a border security crisis or a humanitarian crisis. Let me be clear: It is both.”
Despite the nature of the crisis, Trump has faced criticisms that the current situation is not an emergency because the influx of drugs and migrants over the border has been ongoing for many years.
Provost disagrees. She claimed that the nature of the crisis has shifted because of the number of children involved. She also noted that past apprehension numbers are skewed due to the fact that some individuals could be counted multiple times because returning migrants to Mexico was a quick process — which is no longer the case due to the number of Central American migrants:
“In the 1990s, at a time when Mexican nationals represented up to 90 percent of apprehensions, an agent might have apprehended and returned the same individual multiple times within one shift. Today, nearly 80 percent of those apprehended are from countries other than Mexico. The vast majority are Central American family units and unaccompanied children that require significant care in Border Patrol custody and then enter a backlogged immigration system.”
The changing trends in border crossings have been discussed at length by CBP, which has noted that the number of families apprehended has increased.
.@USBPChief: We are seeing a dangerous new trend—families and unaccompanied children are crossing in large groups ranging from 100 to nearly 350 people—68 groups so far this year, compared to only 13 in all of last year, and 2 the year before.
— CBP (@CBP) February 26, 2019
Provost noted that caring for these families places a unique burden on the immigration system, though the agents believe it is important work.
“What the numbers don’t show is how my men and women care for these vulnerable populations with the limited resources that they have,” Provost said. “As I have said before, we do not leave our humanity behind when we report for duty.”