While all eyes are focused on swing states as we head into the final days of the 2016 presidential election, a new crisis on the southern border has been largely ignored.
For weeks a surge of illegal immigrants from Central America, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala has been overwhelming Border Patrol and I.C.E. agents.
Every day, dozens of men, women and children stream through the streets of McAllen, Texas to a migrant center at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
They have just illegally crossed into the U.S. and have been released by border patrol, with ankle monitors, while they file for asylum.
“We’re getting mass spikes of people crossing and turning themselves in,” said Agent Chris Cabrera, who is with the local border patrol union.
Cabrera said on some days, they’ve encountered up to a thousand immigrants along this stretch of the border. He said the election is partly to blame for the surge.
“The smugglers are telling them if Hillary gets elected, that there’ll be some sort of amnesty, that they need to get here by a certain date. They’re also being told that if Trump gets elected, there’s going to be some magical wall that pops up overnight and once that wall gets up, nobody will ever get in again,” Cabrera said.
On Thursday, a letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson by a number of Senate and House Committee Chairmen expressing concern about the potential release of criminal aliens to accommodate increasing numbers.
"Numerous media reports indicate that this surge is a large-scale effort to enter the United States before this year’s presidential election. The onslaught of illegal immigration reflects continued efforts by aliens from Central America—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—to overwhelm our limited resources at the border, which inevitably results in the release of tens of thousands of removable aliens within the United States. In addition, thousands of Haitians and Africans are amassing in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali for the purpose of presenting themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers asserting dubious claims of asylum, which will practically guarantee their entry. This group of 'Other Than Mexicans' at the southwest border comprises 70-75 percent of all border crossings," the letter, sent by Republicans Chuck Grassley, Jeff Session, Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte states. "The numbers are staggering. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the Border Patrol apprehended 408,870 illegal aliens at the southern border, 23 percent more than the preceding fiscal year. Of those apprehended, more than 77,000 were members of so-called 'family units,' which represents an increase of 95 percent over FY 2015 figures, and nearly 60,000 were unaccompanied alien minors, which reflects a 49 percent increase over the previous fiscal year."
"While we applaud the Department’s efforts to increase detention capacity in response to this surge, we are keenly aware of the limited resources available to the Department for apprehension and detention of removable aliens, and we want to ensure that you are not again considering the mass-release of criminals and other aliens who are subject to removal. As such, we expect you to be forthcoming with Congress regarding this critical situation and your proposed efforts to address it," the letter continues.
Nearly 90 percent of illegal aliens apprehended at the border and set free inside the U.S. never show up to their immigration court dates. Throughout the last eight years, the Obama administration has released more than 100,000 criminal aliens, some charged with murder, back into American communities.