U.S. Border Patrol agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are facing a massive challenge on the Southwest border, and CBP is increasing the ranks of those carrying out the agency’s vital mission.
“In just 28 days of February, we apprehended more than 66,000 illegal aliens,” said U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Scott Luck Wednesday at the annual Border Security Expo in San Antonio, Texas. “So far this fiscal year, we have apprehended more than 300,000. That’s about double over this time last year, and the numbers are projected to keep growing.”
The two-day event brought together hundreds of current and former local, state and federal law enforcement officials and industry representatives from across the country and around the globe to discuss current border security challenges and possible solutions to various challenges.
Deputy Chief Luck discussed the increased volume and change in composition of people illegally crossing the Southwest border. Twenty years ago, the vast majority of the more than 1 million illegal aliens apprehended on the Southwest border were adult males from Mexico, on their own.
“Today, nearly 80 percent of our apprehensions are of people from countries other than Mexico, and more than 60 percent are unaccompanied children or members of family units from the Central America’s Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador,” Luck said, adding the demographic shift prompted the Border Patrol to shift its resources to taking care of those in the Border Patrol’s custody. “Until we can transfer custody to the appropriate partnering agency, we are required to accommodate them in stations designed and built to process short-term detainees typically returned quickly to their home country. These stations built years ago are not luxurious in any way, and they were never intended to handle families and children,” many of whom require medical attention, shifting agents’ time to hospitals.
To gain operational control of the Southwest border, CBP needs additional resources.
“The only enduring way to impede and deny illegal traffic is with a physical barrier,” Deputy Chief Luck said. “While we have more than 650 miles of wall and other physical barriers in place today, we know that’s not enough,” noting there are several projects in the works to beef up the wall in many locations.
Luck also credited partnerships with state and local law enforcement, as well as the U.S. military, for expanding “situational awareness exponentially.”
Another element that will help in operational control is more Border Patrol agents on duty. Speaking to another group separate from Luck, CBP’s Chief Operating Officer John Sanders said the agency is doing all it can to give Border Patrol and Field Operations the people they need as soon as possible.
Mr. Sanders discussed CBP’s Fast Track system – a hiring process started in February to quickly bring aboard law enforcement personnel while maintaining the highest standards. Through Fast Track, “CBP’s goal is to hire agents and officers in 120 days,” adding how the program’s flexibility is a great asset. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach program.”
Deputy Chief Luck concluded that border security is a complex issue needing a complex solution. With resources, such as a wall system and facilities, along with technology and additional personnel, the U.S. Border Patrol will have the capabilities to face the nation’s threats and the humanitarian crisis on our Southwest border.
“Seemingly insurmountable tasks have been a part of our culture for nearly 100 years, and we will do everything in our power to persevere,” Luck said.