A Border Patrol agent from Texas told the Senate Wednesday that although numbers are down, illegal immigrants continue to flow into the U.S. from Mexico because they know they will not be deported by U.S. authorities.
Agent Chris Cabrera, who has spent his entire career patrolling the Rio Grande Valley, testified before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee that detainees are “typically very forthcoming about their motivation about coming into the United States.”
“Most believe that they will either not be caught, or even if they are caught, they will not be deported back to their home country,” said Cabrera. “The UACs (unaccompanied alien children) and family groups we detain are acutely aware of the fact we will not hold them until they are adjudicated.”
Cabrera testified that more than 66,000 unaccompanied alien children were apprehended in fiscal year 2014. That number, he said, has been reduced to 30,000 in fiscal year 2015. But he added that Border Patrol apprehended “an additional 40,000 in family groups.”
The continuous surge of illegals crossing the border is not driven by the endemic violence in Central America, according to Cabrera. “Unfortunately, many of these countries have been suffering violence, corruption and poverty for decades.”
“They know that they will be released and issued a Notice to Appear (NTA),” Cabrera explained.. “What we have right now is essentially a catch-and-release policy. This coupled with violence and instability in their home country is driving the continued flow of UACs and family groups.”
“Until we hold them until we adjudicate their cases they will continue to come,” he said.
Cabrera also noted that the ongoing flow of UACs into the U.S. can have other disastrous impacts on border security. For example, he said that when child immigrants come across a certain area, it’s hard for the U.S. Border Patrol to focus on other priorities.
“The cartels knew that a group of 30 UACs can literally tie up an entire shift of agents in my area,” he said. “All we were doing was tending to the children and the entire border in our area was completely unguarded.”
Cabrera, who is also a member of the National Border Patrol Council, said the solution for ending the problem is to ensure all illegal immigrants are detained and deported.
“If they knew that if they were caught they would be detained, adjudicated and repatriated to their home country, the calculus changes dramatically,” he said. “I guarantee that if this was the case, the numbers would fall dramatically.”
He also said his sector is only catching 40 percent of all illegal immigrants, and said more agents are needed.
Cabrera said, “I am happy to discuss this in greater detail during the question and answer period, but I believe we are at least 5,000 agents below where we need to be to effectively secure the southern border.”