With much angst on display, a national Border Security Expo didn’t offer much sense of security this week in San Antonio.
From the keynote speaker, acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Ronald Vitiello, to lower-level functionaries at ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the official line was decidedly downbeat.
“We cannot secure the border in a meaningful way under the current system,” Vitiello told reporters. “It’s an unmitigated crisis.”
CBP is now unilaterally freeing migrants with notices to appear for immigration hearings at some future date. Normally, migrants apprehended by CBP would be turned over to ICE for processing and supervision, until immigration hearings can be conducted. However, bypassing ICE involvement renders adjudication of immigration claims and the enforcement of any subsequent orders significantly less likely.
Citing “strain on the mission” and “degradation” of resources, a weary Vitiello said the situation at the border “is not sustainable. I don’t know how much longer we can do it.”
On the eve of the Expo, CBP reported that a tractor trailer carrying 15 smuggled Chinese nationals got halfway to San Antonio before it was stopped at a checkpoint. “We might have caught them at the border if there weren’t so many other distractions,” Vitiello told a press briefing.
A glimmer of good news came from Washington, where the Pentagon announced it would redirect $3.6 billion from the military’s construction budget toward building the border wall.
Curiously, that move didn’t rate a mention at the Expo. An ICE spokeswoman told FAIR the agency had no comment on the funding, which, when combined with the modest $1.3 billion Congress approved last month, gets closer to the $8.6 billion sought by President Donald Trump.
With 34 years at CBP and ICE, Vitiello is still awaiting Senate confirmation to his post while he witnesses a U.S.-Mexico border descending into chaos. Pointing to continued political gridlock on Capitol Hill and legal gamesmanship in the courts, he said America is “encouraging” more Central Americans to make the perilous journey north.
Migrants who successfully navigate the dangerous terrain and elude the predatory cartels en route figure they have a good shot at getting securely into this country. According to our beleaguered border enforcers, they’re not wrong.