Hundreds of thousands of migrants were simply let into the United States in fiscal year 2019 without having to claim asylum. The revelation came on Wednesday during a Senate hearing on the "Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: The Year in Review."
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson asked senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department why, given that 473,682 individuals illegally entered the United States as family units, only 105,000 credible-fear referrals had been made.
"The credible fear process is only triggered typically when someone is subject to an expedited removal order, so if they don't go through the expedited removal process, they wouldn't have..." James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Justice Department, began to answer.
Sen. Johnson interrupted, "So the bottom line is we literally let hundreds of thousands of people in and they didn't even have to claim credible fear?"
"That is correct," answered Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Morgan testified, "In Fiscal Year 2019, USBP apprehended 473,682 individuals as part of family units, representing the highest number for any year on record and 342 percent higher than the previous year’s record of 107,212. The number of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) encountered between the ports totaled 76,020 in Fiscal Year 2019, 52 percent higher than the previous year’s UAC total of 50,036. UAC and family units represented 64.5 percent of all individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol at the Southwest Border."
As a result of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, the government must release unaccompanied alien minors without unnecessary delay. Following the surge of alien families crossing the southern border in 2014, the Flores Agreement was reinterpreted by a California District Court to also apply to alien minors arriving with a parent or legal guardian. As a result of that decision and other decisions, DHS rarely detains alien minors and their families for longer than approximately 20 days.
The Flores Agreement and subsequent rulings make up the current policy known as catch-and-release. The policy is why 75 percent of the 473,682 migrants who came as family units last fiscal year were simply released into the interior without having to claim asylum. Mark Morgan said closing the loophole is necessary to stop smugglers and MS-13 gang members who take advantage of our policies.