A caravan-size influx of migrants is flooding across the border each week in just a single sector, a top Border Patrol official told lawmakers Tuesday -- the latest indicator of the growing migration crisis on the southern border.
“Much media attention has focused on caravans coming across from Central America,” Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodolfo Karisch said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. “But the fact is that RGV is receiving caravan-equivalent numbers every seven days.”
Karisch said his sector has apprehended people from 50 different countries, including China, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Romania.
“People are traveling across hemispheres to attempt to illegally enter the U.S., using the same pathways as the Central Americans,” he said.
Karisch noted that Border Patrol has apprehended more families illegally crossing the border in the first five months of fiscal 2019 than during all of fiscal 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended more than 76,000 migrants across the border in February and said it was on track to apprehend more than 100,000 in March.
In the Rio Grande Valley alone, Karisch said that at current pace, they would have more than 260,000 apprehensions in his sector by the end of fiscal 2019. There were 162,000 in RGV last year. He also said that his agents apprehend, on average, 1,000 people a day.
Karisch’s testimony is the latest warning from officials that there is an escalating crisis at the border. President Trump, who declared a national emergency at the border in February, traveled to the border on Friday and repeated his warnings that he is prepared to close the border if Congress and Mexico do not act to close loopholes and stop migrant flows -- though he has indicated such an action is not imminent.
Last week, Obama-era Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan told senators on Thursday that the U.S. is “experiencing a crisis at the southern border at a magnitude never seen in modern times.”
Karisch on Tuesday gave a similarly dour assessment, saying that in 30 years as an agent, “I have never witnessed the conditions we are currently facing on the southwest border.”
“This is not a manufactured crisis created by those of us who live and work in the border area. Border Patrol continues to apprehend record numbers of people who purposely violate U.S. immigration laws, we are taken advantage of by gaps in our legal frameworks and that undermine the rule of laws.”
Karisch’s remarks come as Trump is shaking up leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, apparently to take a tougher stance on illegal immigration. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned on Sunday and last week Trump abruptly pulled the nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), saying he wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Trump recently told White House adviser Stephen Miller, one of the White House’s hardliners on immigration, that “you’re in charge” of immigration policy.