- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2019

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Thursday that “100%” of illegal-immigrant families in the new border surge are being released into communities, rather than being held and deported.

He said within a month or two, they are also granted work permits, giving them a foothold to live and remain in the U.S. while their cases proceed through the immigration courts — a process that averages two years, and stretches even longer in some overwhelmed regions.

Mr. McAleenan said that system, rewarding unauthorized migrants who jump the border with exactly the thing they seek, is responsible for the record-breaking numbers.

“That is directly how smugglers are advertising,” he told the Senate Homeland Security Committee, adding that it applies not just to families seeking asylum.

The effects on the border have been stunning.

In 2012, only about 10,000 migrants traveling as families — meaning parent and child — were caught by Border Patrol at the border. Over the last two months alone, that number was 111,679 people.

Many of the families end up ignoring their immigration court proceedings, and remain in the U.S. illegally even after they have been ordered deported.

That was brought into stark view this week when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that an illegal immigrant teen affiliated with the violent international MS-13 street gang came into the U.S. as part of a family unit in 2015.

Josue Fuentes-Ponce and his family did not show up for their immigration hearing in 2017 and they were ordered deported in absentia — yet nobody ever went to look for the family.

The teen remained free in Maryland, where he was accused last year of attempted murder. ICE sought to deport him, but he was released from custody after local authorities did not honor a detainer request.

He now stands accused of the horrific murder of a 14-year-old girl in Maryland last month. Prosecutors say he and another illegal immigrant, 17-year-old Joel Ernesto Escobar, who arrived in the U.S. as an Unaccompanied Alien Child, used a bat to bash the girl and a machete to chop at her, suspecting she was going to rat them out over a gang-related robbery.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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