There’s been a run for the border—the U.S. border—by citizens around the world. They may be trying to get in under the wire before an anticipated tightening of border security under the Trump administration. The Department of Homeland Security says immigration detention facilities are already overflowing (41,000 in them) and there’s a new surge.
In August, there were 37,408 people known to cross the southern border illegally. In September, there were 39,501. In October, 46,195.
We recently spoke to Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas—who represents a district that bears a lot of the brunt of that surge.
Sharyl Attkisson: I've looked at the numbers you’ve given me and it looks like in many categories there’s a big uptick in immigrants crossing the border.
Congressman Henry Cuellar: Especially the unaccompanied kids, family units coming in from Central America. Back last year around this time, I had said we need to look at those numbers because they look like they’re increasing.
In the 2016 fiscal year, more than 408,000 illegally entered the southern border. That includes over 59,000 children under 18 who came without parents or guardians.
Most of the youth crossed in through Congressman Henry Cuellar’s district, which includes Laredo, Texas.
Sharyl Attkisson: I also look at these numbers and there’s been a big influx in Haitians coming into the US illegally.
Congressman Henry Cuellar: I think what’s happening now is people are realizing all you have to do is get to the southern border and just claim asylum, refugee or credible fear then they’ll process you, give you the notice to appear and then you wait 3, 4 years for a court hearing and that’s why you got Haitians you got other people.
In 2015, only about 339 Haitians were taken in by Border Patrol. But in 2016, that number skyrocketed. 5,000 Haitians illegally entered through California alone.
Sarah Saldana, ICE Director: I think you know that right now the emergency situation that I’m aware of is actually on a California border with some 4,000 Haitians there.
In September, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana testified.
The Haitian influx is causing such a crisis, that the U.S. government recently began a program to deport thousands of them, focusing first on convicted felons.
Sarah Saldana: I just was in the Central American region and heard from a number of those countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, that they're aware of, with conversations with their governments in South and Central america of 40,000 Haitians who are en route to the United States.
In 2016, the Border Patrol also took in nearly 200,000 Mexicans who entered illegally, 75,000 Guatemalans, 72,000 from El Salvador and, 53,000 Hondurans.
Congressman Henry Cuellar: There are countries from all over the world not just Mexico and Central America. So it’s a U.N. type of diversity if I can say that.
Cuellar questions why U.S. tax money provided to Central America to keep so many from fleeing hasn’t been used.
Congressman Henry Cuellar: If you remember about a year ago the Congress, myself, Kay Ranger and other folks we added $750 million to help the Central American countries address some of the issues. A year later, they’ve only allotted out $23 million, as of a week ago. We gave them the money they should have had a plan to allocate these resources. Problem is $750 million for Honduras, Central America, Guatemala where most of the kids and family units are coming in, and as the numbers are rising we still haven't done anything with those resources.
Cubans—who get automatic legal status and benefits under Cold War policy—are also crossing the southern border in huge numbers. In 2014, 23,000 Cubans entered the U.S. In 2016, that number more than doubled to 55,000.
There’s also an uptick in illegal entries via Mexico by people from Pakistan-- which some consider a state sponsor of terrorism. The Border Patrol took in 31 Pakistanis in 2014—but more than 300 this year.
Sharyl Attkisson: The number of Pakistanis specifically has gone up according to these numbers to 214 to fiscal year 2016 gone up 935%. Is that cause for concern?
Congressman Henry Cuellar: It is because people from different parts of the world, Africa, Middle East, other parts of the world are now realizing that all you have to do is get to the southern border of the United States and there’s a process there you can claim a legal defense and you just get to come in. I mean, people, the smuggling organizations know exactly what they’re doing.
Sharyl Attkisson: A lot of people say these poor people come to the U.S. for hope. They need refuge why should we turn anybody away?
Congressman Henry Cuellar: You know we’re a very generous country a very giving country and i wish we could save the world but unfortunately we can’t save the world and people are coming in and overloading the system But, realistically, what can we do under the legal system or in my opinion we need to change the immigration system to make it work better and address some of those issues.
Sharyl Attkisson: What do you think might be on the horizon for your district and for the U.S. southern border under a Trump administration?
Congressman Henry Cuellar: You know I think with all due respect I think he was using a lot of political rhetoric to get some of those votes.
Donald J. Trump: “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.”
Congressman Henry Cuellar: I think if you look now he’s backtracking, first he said I’m gonna deport everybody and now he’s saying well maybe the 2, 3 million criminal aliens which that’s been my position for years. There’s ways we can secure the border in a much better way than just saying put a wall and come up with 14 century solutions to a 21st century problem. A wall for example really quickly you put one mile of technology it’d be about a million dollars a mile. You put one mile of fencing, not a wall, which is cheaper it’ll be 6.5 million dollars a mile so again I think the Trump administration is gonna come back, review take input from people that work the you know the border patrol live on the border understand and i think he will take a more practical aspect, in my opinion.
Haiti is refusing to accept all of the citizens the U.S. is trying to deport. One notorious case is that of Jean Jacques. He came here illegally in the 1990’s and shot a woman in the head. Upon his release from prison, he wasn’t deported and stabbed to death another young American woman. A bipartisan group of Senators wants the U.S. to deny visas for visitors from countries that are refusing their deported citizens.