Homeland Security Sec. Nielsen: Border crisis at near system-wide meltdown

The crisis at our southern border is real and it is getting worse. While Democrats continue to stick their heads in the sand and call it a manufactured crisis for political reasons, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen now says we no longer have a national crisis on our hands, we are approaching “a near system-wide meltdown”.

This Wednesday morning tweet from Secretary Nielsen follows up on a couple of articles I’ve read in the last few days. NBC News reports that the number of daily attempts by illegal aliens to cross over the border has reached a level not seen since 2006. The numbers have increased to well above 3,000 a day. Not a week, but a day.

The surge has maxed out the capacity of existing detention centers, and the Department of Homeland Security is now in negotiations with the Department of Defense to detain and care for the overflow on U.S. military bases, according to a DHS official and two other U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.

The Department of Health and Human Services has requested DOD support for bed space for up to 5,000 children, but DOD has not yet approved the request, according to a defense official.

How can our border patrol and checkpoint system possibly keep up with this invasion? The simple truth is that they can not keep up and an article caught my eye over the weekend that now border security checkpoints have been ordered closed at the El Paso section. Border Patrol agents are not allowed to speak on the record to the press, according to Texas Monthly, but several did speak to the publication on the condition of remaining anonymous.

“We were told to go ahead and close down all the checkpoints,” one official said Saturday morning. Agents assigned to checkpoints were told they would be sent indefinitely to assist in efforts to process and transport hundreds of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border each day in El Paso, a surge that is overwhelming available resources. “It’s really out of control. It’s bad,” the official said. A Border Patrol spokesman said the agency was preparing a statement on the checkpoint issue but as of Saturday evening the agency hadn’t responded to Texas Monthly inquiries.

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, confirmed reports of the checkpoints shutting down and said he is also receiving reports that agents with Customs and Border Protection who usually inspect cross-border cargo and other trade are also being redeployed to help with asylum claims. “We’re seeing an impact on the traditional work Border Patrol and CBP do to handle a large number of asylum cases,” he said. He added that he is already looking at future appropriations to see if more incentive can be provided for Mexico and other Latin American countries to work more diligently to fend off the flow of migration from Central Americans.

So, the checkpoints are closed and detention centers are over capacity. Children are no longer separated from their families, or those who claim to be family as human trafficking is rampant on the border, so what’s the solution? Homeland Security has turned to the Department of Defense for help, though troops on the border is tricky because of the Posse Comitatus Act.

The U.S. officials and a DHS official told NBC News they are working on a plan that would allow defense funds and personnel to be used in transporting immigrants in need of medical transport. The request from the DHS includes the use of DOD land to build facilities that would house detained migrants while they await deportation or an asylum hearing.

The Trump administration has already deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the border to help reinforce existing barriers, such as by hanging wire over fencing, and has plans to keep them there into September.

Those troops do not have direct involvement with immigrants, and Defense officials are wary of having uniformed military personnel come in contact with or transport migrants, two officials told NBC News.

How about using more DOD land like Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base? That is under consideration. Illegal aliens can be housed there, whether it is family detentions or single person detentions.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed site surveys were completed at both Goodfellow AFB and Fort Bliss last year but said there has still been no request to begin housing migrants on U.S. military bases. “DOD will not begin constructing additional shelters until DOD receives a notice of intent from either DHS or HHS requesting that DOD start construction,” Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said. “At this time, DOD has not received notification.”

Democrats running for office can no longer counter President Trump’s border security agenda with claims that border detentions are down and more aggressive measures, like a border wall, are not necessary. Everything is on the table and border security should include a mix of border barriers, border patrol agents, and technology.

Over the first five months of fiscal 2019, CBP had apprehended 268,044 migrants, on pace for more than 643,300 this year. If reached, that total would be the most since 705,005 in 2008 and more than twice as high as the 310,531 migrants taken into custody two years ago.

Adding to the Democrats woes on border security is the fact that their attempt to override President Trump’s Executive Order directing $1B of money from the Pentagon budget towards border wall construction failed Tuesday. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee tried to deny the move Monday and sent a letter to DOD to that effect. As Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was testifying before his committee Monday, Smith released his letter as the secretary was still testifying.

On Monday night, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced that he had authorized the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to spend up to $1 billion to support the Department of Homeland Security’s request “to build 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing, constructing and improving roads, and installing lighting within the Yuma and El Paso Sectors of the border.”

The reprogramming was directly in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in February.

But in a statement released as Shanahan was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss DoD’s 2020 budget request, the chairman, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., released a letter informing DoD it would not be allowed to do any such reprogramming.

“The committee denies this request,” Smith wrote. “The committee does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border.”

The failure of the House Democrats to override President Trump’s Executive Order leaves Smith impotent here. The money can be used for the border wall. I’ll end with this chart from Sec. Nielson. Hard to argue with the numbers, no matter how hard the President’s opposition tries.