Border Patrol agents in some of the hardest-hit areas of the migrant surge are being pulled off the front lines and spending most of their time processing and taking care of illegal immigrants, according to law enforcement officials who ticked off the grim statistics of the situation for The Washington Times.
The Del Rio sector of Texas says assaults on agents have doubled compared with last year, and high-speed pursuits are up 40%.
Arrests of migrants with sex offense records are up more than 2,500% in the sector, a region of the border that was relatively quiet for the past decade but became a major crossing point this year after the Biden administration erased get-tough policies.
Del Rio agents have rescued more than 1,000 people but recorded 35 deaths from drowning or exposure to the elements.
Amid the violence and death, the most striking statistic the law enforcement sources revealed may be the way the Border Patrol itself is stretched. At one station in Del Rio, 56% of agents’ time is spent not in the field but in processing or taking care of illegal immigrants, usually juveniles traveling alone or parents and children together, all of whom require special care.
Agents also have been pressed into picking up trash rather than patrolling the border. Piles of garbage from the illegal crossings have accumulated along the U.S. banks of the Rio Grande, and agents, troops from the National Guard and contractors were sent to clean up.
Border trash has long been an issue and was particularly bad in the early part of this century, but having to spend time caring for children and families is a relatively new phenomenon.
Before 2014, nearly all illegal immigrants who arrived at the border were single adults. In 2014, the first surge of children hit in full. Soon afterward, parents began to arrive with children, seeking to take advantage of more lax rules on how quickly they can be released.
Border Patrol stations weren’t built with those children and families in mind, and caring for them takes far more time than handling single adults.
In Del Rio, family unit arrests are up 238% and unaccompanied juvenile arrests are up 285% though the first seven months of the fiscal year.
Across the entire border, the Border Patrol arrested more than 137,000 children and parents in March and April. During those same two months a year ago, fewer than 8,000 children and parents were nabbed.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was confronted with the numbers during a Senate hearing Wednesday. He brushed aside questions of whether the administration’s strategy was working and rejected suggestions of restarting Trump-era policies that Border Patrol agents credited with solving the 2019 surge.
Mr. Mayorkas also disputed Border Patrol agents’ belief that the border wall is a critical part of securing the boundary. He said he has spoken with agents and “one will discern different approaches and different opinions.”
“It is ultimately my responsibility to pursue those instruments and tools that I consider most effective,” he said.
Mr. Mayorkas was also challenged about nearly 20,000 illegal immigrants who were caught and released without being given a Notice to Appear, which is the document specifying a date for an immigration court hearing.
The secretary said the immigrants instead are given a notice to show up at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to get their Notice to Appear in immigration court. It’s not clear how many migrants are following through.
After reports that people on terrorist watch lists had been nabbed trying to sneak into the U.S. as part of the overall flow, Mr. Mayorkas said he is not worried.
“We don’t have any evidence that suggests that the threat on the border with respect to foreign terrorists is any greater today than it was last year, the year prior or the years over the past decade,” he said.
Republican leaders in Congress emerged from briefings at the border in March to say agents had said they were catching people on the terrorism lists.
The claim drew vicious pushback from reporters, and one news outlet labeled the claims as “notorious immigration lies.”
Weeks later, CBP revealed that agents had, in fact, caught two men in separate incidents, both from Yemen and both of whom were on terrorist watch lists. Both arrived during the Biden administration.
The press release was quickly deleted. CBP said it didn’t meet agency standards.
Mr. Mayorkas on Wednesday said the Department of Homeland Security has the terrorist situation in hand.
“The fact of the matter is that we are vigilant in guarding against foreign terrorist influences through all avenues, not just, of course, our land borders but air and maritime,” he said. “That is what we do, and fortunately we have extraordinary capabilities to address it.”