U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez said Wednesday, apprehension numbers at the nation’s southern border in February marked a 12-year high, and more than half of the migrants being apprehended are made up of family units, while commenting on reports from Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that 76,000 people had attempted crossings.
“Nearly two-thirds are family units and more than 70 percent are originating from Central America and countries other than Mexico,” Perez told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “It is overwhelming an immigration system that was never designed to deal with that type of population, deal with those types of numbers.”
On Tuesday, the Trump administration issued a warning to GOP lawmakers about the numbers of illegal crossings, while Congress appears to be heading toward a vote rejecting the president’s emergency border declaration.
The numbers of family units migrating to the United States are allowing human smugglers and narcotics traffickers an “ability to reap unprecedented numbers and money and profits and at the same time putting these very vulnerable populations at terrible risk,” said Perez.
The numbers also point to a need to modernize the country’s legal framework and to reinforce the border with technology and barriers, said Perez.
“We need to be able to keep families together through expedited asylum hearings,” he said. “We need to be able to treat unaccompanied children from any part of the globe as we do those from Mexico and Canada.”