Continue to monitor two groups of 3,000 people
With a caravan of more approximately 3,500 people currently traveling through Mexico several entities including government agencies, local charities and city municipalities are on watch and will play a role. In a series of stories our publications will be explaining exactly what roles will be played should the caravan arrive at the United States/Mexico border.
The United States Customs and Border Protection continue to monitor the caravan and prepare for enhanced security operations in order to address the potential arrival of a caravan of migrants.
Last week, Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said CBP is currently monitoring two groups, one with 3,500 and another group roughly the same size that is at the Ciudad Hidalgo border crossing between Guatemala and Mexico.
“To put these numbers in context, we are already facing a border security and a humanitarian crisis at our southwest border,” the Commissioner said. “Each day, on average for the last three weeks, CBP has encountered a combination of nearly 1,900 persons apprehended crossing our border illegally or presenting without documents at ports of entry.”
McAleenan said that more than half of the arrivals have been made up of family units and unaccompanied children who have been placed in the hands of human smugglers, paying $7,000 per person to make the journey.
There is an incentive to try and cross the border by the gaps of legal framework with the expectation the migrants will be allowed to stay. Such thinking means tens of thousands of intending migrants between the Guatemala border and the U.S. Border are moving towards the United States.
According to McAleenan there is a flow of about 17,000 criminals, last year, along with hardened smugglers and people from over 100 countries around the world.
“Our immigration system is unable to effectively process and repatriate those without the right to remain in the United States due to extensive backlogs in our courts and because of court restrictions on detaining people through their immigration proceedings,” he said.
What is new and challenging about caravans is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats. For the two large groups that CBP is following, they have already seen the first one make unlawful entry across two international borders.
The second group McAleenan said deployed violent and dangerous tactics against both Guatemalan and Mexican security teams.
Customs and Border Protection are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks. They have a simple message to the organizers and participants. As the President Donald Trump and Secretary of Homeland Security SDFSDF Nielson have made clear, a large group will not be allowed to enter the United States in an unsafe and unlawful manner.
The border patrol will apprehend those that seek to cross the border illegally and enforce the laws of the United States. For those who seek to make an asylum claim “safely” and “lawfully” at a port of entry, Mexico has offered protection and employment authorization.
“If you are fleeing alleged persecution at home, you have arrived at a safe place to make your claim,” McAleenan said. “If you are an economic migrant seeking to join family members in the United States, you should return home and apply for the appropriate visa.”
While CBP and DHS partners processed more than 38,000 inadmissible persons claiming fear of return to their country safely and efficiently at the ports of entry lasty year, there is not benefit of being part of a large group.
The caravan has already been offered protections in Mexico.
The commissioner noted how much they appreciate the efforts of the Government of Mexico to address the challenging situation in accordance with the highest principles of protection of human rights and respect for migrants while upholding the integrity of the Mexican border and Mexican immigration law.
Preparations at the border have stemmed the launch of Operation Secure Line, a multi-phased and flexible operation response designed to ensure CBP is prepared for any number of contingencies involved with the arrival and attempted crossing of a large group of intending migrants at the border.
“Whether they attempt to cross at a port of entry or unlawfully in between ports of entry, an important principle here is that border security is a law enforcement mission,” McAleenan said.
As the unified border security agency of the United States, CBP is well equipped, along with support from interagency federal, state and local partners to manage multiple contingencies of varying size. Since planning for the operation began three weeks ago there has been updated assessments of the 26 crossing points on the southwest border and there has been a deployment of 100 specially trained Special Response Team operators to prepare plans for each location.
CBP also has 1,000 officers ready should the information of a large group at a port of entry become available.
Between ports of entry we have an additional 830 Border Patrol agents on standby, ready to deploy, to include 140 special operations agents, 385 mobile response team agents, and an additional 350 agents from unaffected sectors. These agents will be augmented and supported by over two dozen CBP air assets for surveillance and mobile response including four Black Hawks, six additional helicopters, as well as multiple fixed-wing assets and unmanned aerial systems.
Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense. This is in addition to the 2,000 National Guard personnel already augmenting operations under Operation Guardian Support in making an impact in border security supporting apprehensions and drug seizures since last year.
Specifically CBP requested that the DOD provide support in several key areas including:
Significant air and ground transportation and logistic support to move CBP personnel and equipment to locations of operational focus;
Engineering capabilities and equipment to help ensure our ability to secure our legal crossings in key areas of the border;
Medical support units;
Mobile housing for sustaining CBP deployed personnel; and
Extensive planning support.
McAleenan said regardless of the operational contingencies CBP faces, along with their interagency partners and support from the DOD, they will ensure border security.
“We will not allow a large group to enter the U.S. Unlawfully,” he said. “We will maintain lawful trade and travel to the greatest extent possible, we will act in accordance with the highest principles of law enforcement, we will treat intending migrants humanely and professionally at all times, and the safety of CBP personnel, especially our law enforcement personnel on the front lines as well as the traveling public will remain paramount.”