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In the wake of the death of a second migrant child in federal detention, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen blamed smugglers, traffickers, and migrant parents for pushing border security systems to the “breaking point.” She cited several “draw factors” that caused the recent surge, including an asylum process that encourages fraudulent claims and rewards parents for sending or bringing their children across the border.

The following are excerpts from Nielsen’s statement:

"In recent months, we have seen a dramatic increase at the border of families and unaccompanied children crossing our border illegally.  In the last two months alone, the Border Patrol has apprehended 139,817 illegal aliens on the Southwest Border as compared to 74,946 during the same time frame of FY 2018.  This is an increase of 86%.  In just two months into this fiscal year we have seen 68,510 family units and 13,981 unaccompanied children. 


"This changing dynamic is the direct result of obvious draw factors: an immigration system that rewards parents for sending their children across the border alone; a system that prevents parents who bring their children on a dangerous and illegal journey from facing consequences for their actions; an asylum process that is not able to quickly help those who qualify for asylum; a system that encourages fraudulent claims; and a system that encourages bad actors to coach aliens into making frivolous claims. The bottom line is that 9 out 10 asylum claims are rejected by a federal immigration judge.




"Our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders. Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north. This crisis is exacerbated by the increase in persons who are entering our custody suffering from severe respiratory illnesses or exhibit some other illness upon apprehension.  Given the remote locations of their illegal crossing and the lack of resources, it is even more difficult for our personnel to be first responders. 




"In response to the unprecedented surge of children into our custody, I have directed a series of extraordinary protective measures…At my direction, all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening.  Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands-on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension. 




"As a result of bad judicial rulings from activist judges and inaction by Congress, we are seeing a flood of family units and unaccompanied alien children...I once again ask – beg – parents to not place their children at risk by taking a dangerous journey north. Vulnerable populations – including family units and unaccompanied alien children should seek asylum at the first possible opportunity, including Mexico.




"To be clear, Border Patrol stations were never intended to be longer-term holding facilities for any individuals.  Under current law, non-Mexican unaccompanied children cannot be released or removed from the U.S. – they must be turned over to Health and Human Services for placement pending bed space availability.  Moreover, family units are almost always released into the interior – in any case, they cannot be held past 21 days.




"To those in Congress who continue to refuse to take action to address the loopholes that cause a flood of humanity to travel north and place children at risk, I once again call on you to do your job, protect vulnerable populations, secure our borders, and provide the men and women of DHS the authorities and resources we need to address this crisis. Please put politics aside, we have common cause – let’s work together to protect family units and unaccompanied alien children. It’s a mission we share."

Updated: Thu, Jan 10th 2019 @ 2:30pm EST