DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urged Congress to close the loopholes in the immigration system during the White House Press Briefing on Monday. Additionally, she presented current statistics pertaining to illegal immigration on the southern border and stated that DHS will continue to prosecute those who attempt to illegally enter the U.S.
"... in the last three months, we have seen illegal immigration on our southern border exceed 50,000 people each month. Multiples over each month last year ... Since this time last year, there has been a 325 percent increase in unaccompanied alien children and a 435 percent increase in family units entering the country illegally ... Over the last 10 years, there has been a 1,700 percent increase in asylum claims, resulting in asylum backlog to date, on our country, of 600,000 cases.
"Since 2013, the United States has admitted more than half a million illegal immigrant minors and family units from Central America, most of whom today are at large in the United States ...
"In particular, we need to reform three major loopholes ... First, we need to amend the 2008 Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act, or TVPR -- which is much easier to say. This law encourages families to put children in the hands of smugglers to bring them alone on this dangerous trek northward. And make no mistake, we've talked about this before -- this trek is dangerous and deadly.
"Second, we need to reform our asylum laws to end the systemic abuse of our asylum system and stop fraud. Right now, our asylum system fails to assist asylum seekers who legitimately need it ...
"Third, we need to amend the Flores Settlement Agreement and recent expansions which currently allow for -- which would allow for family detention during the removal process. And we need Congress to fully fund our ability to hold families together through the immigration process.
"Until these loopholes are closed by Congress, it is not possible, as a matter of law, to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States ...
"We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws ... we will only separate the family if we cannot determine there is a familiar relationship, if the child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or if the parent or legal guardian is referred for prosecution.
"We have a duty to protect the American people, and it's one that I take very seriously. Here is the bottom line: DHS is no longer ignoring the law. We are enforcing the laws as they exist on the books. As long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, DHS will not look the other way. DHS will faithfully execute the laws enacted by Congress, as we are sworn to do.
"As I said earlier today, surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law. I ask Congress to act this week so that we can secure our borders and uphold our humanitarian ideas. These two missions should not be pitted against each other. If we close the loopholes, we can accomplish both.
For more on this story, see whitehouse.gov.
Updated: Tue, Jul 3rd 2018 @ 4:10pm EDT