Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border during her testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday.
“The agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fiscal year than the entirety of FY17 (fiscal year 2017),” she said in her opening remarks, “and at the current pace we are on track to encounter close to one million illegal aliens at our southern border this year.”
“Our capacity is already severely strained, but these increases will overwhelm the system entirely,” Nielsen continued. “This is not a manufactured crisis. This is truly an emergency.”
She cited the Customs and Border Protection February apprehension numbers, showing that border patrol agents arrested or turned away 76,325 immigrants at the border, the highest number in 12 years.
Nielsen also pointed out that “criminals are targeting vulnerable populations along the dangerous journey to our borders.”
She cited a study which found that “more than 30 percent of women reported sexual assault along the way, and 70 percent of all migrants reported experiencing violence,” arguing that “smugglers and traffickers are exploiting these migrants.”
Later in her testimony, she revealed that "very unfortunately, because of the increase in violence, at ICE, when we have families with children, we have to give every girl a pregnancy test over 10."
“No rational person would design an immigration system like we have today,” Nielsen emphasized. “It’s dangerous for Americans. It’s dangerous for migrants. It undermines our nation’s values. And it fails to uphold our fundamental obligations to the American people.”
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) contested the claim of a national emergency in his opening remarks, calling it a "non-existent emergency."
Thompson asked Nielsen about President Trump's statement that he “didn’t need to” declare a national emergency at the border.
“My conversations of course with the President, generally speaking, are protected under privilege, but what I would say is his explanation in general, in public has been that he hoped Congress would act,” she replied, “that it didn’t have to come to issuing an emergency declaration if Congress had met his request to fund the resources that CBP has requested.”