‘We know we need to get things done by the end of 2020. We can’t assume anything…’
The number of illegal immigrants flooding the southern border has dropped significantly since its record-high in May, Cuccinelli said on Thursday at an event hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies. And it has everything to do with Trump’s decision to finally enforce the law.
Border apprehensions surged to a 13-year high in May, reaching more than 130,000 in just one month. Now, apprehensions are below 90,000.
“There was this peak in May,” he explained. “It was an incredible number.”
However, the situation is still at a “crisis level,” he noted. “If you take out the other horrific months in 2019, August is still the highest month of the past seven years, except for two other months. But the trend line is good.”
The reduced number of asylum seekers, particularly among unaccompanied minors and children, has helped reduce the migration flow, Cuccinelli said.
“Those are the ones that pose the biggest challenge to the system, both in facilities and in manpower, but also in the legal front,” he said. “There are a lot of loopholes we have to follow when it comes to asylum seekers.”
Those loopholes are yet another thing the Trump administration is trying to fix, he added, citing its recent end to the “catch and release” system that allowed asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. unaccounted for.
“We’re not doing that anymore,” Cuccinelli said.
The long-standing policy forced immigration officials to release illegal immigrants into the U.S. while they awaited court hearings throughout the asylum process.
The administration’s new policy will be part of a larger “strategy to mitigate the loopholes that act as a ‘pull factor’ for family units seeking to cross illegally at the Southwest border,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced this week.
Under it, migrant families will need to prove they have a fear of return or they will be “quickly” deported back to their home countries, he said.
The administration is also looking to reform the Flores settlement, which forces immigration authorities to hear every single asylum case filed, regardless of whether there is a credible fear.
“Flores is a terribly worded statute,” Cuccinelli explained. “It’s a standard of a standard, which is a terrible way to write a law.”
But the former Virginia attorney general said there was no way for immigration agencies to legally circumvent the ruling.
“There it is, and we have to enforce it,” he said. “It takes up about 80% of what we do, but only about 10% of immigrants actually get through.”
The result was a massive number of fraudulent asylum applications “clogging the pipelines” even though they were not likely to succeed, he said.
Open-borders activists have encouraged this, with the knowledge that many illegals will have to be released into the U.S. before they are processed and are unlikely to return for their hearings.
“Make no mistake,” Cuccinelli said, “the strategy on the part of the people coming here illegally is a collective strategy. It is to swamp the border and to swamp immigration enforcement.”
Cuccinelli also credited President Donald Trump’s recent deal with Mexico, in which Trump agreed to scrap sweeping tariffs on the country in exchange for Mexico’s promise to crack down on illegal immigrants moving through the country toward the southern border.
Cuccinelli described it as “leveraging the advantages America has for our security on the international stage.”
McAleenan said much of the same earlier this month: “That international effort is making an impact. Mexican operational interdiction is certainly [the] highlight of that effort, but the shared responsibility we’re seeing in the region, governments stepping up and saying, ‘We also own this,’” he told Fox News.
The Department of Homeland Security’s recent numbers confirm Cuccinelli’s statement. Immigration officials apprehended about 64,000 migrants near the southern border this past month.
Overall, migration through Mexico is down by 56%, according to Mexican officials.
The number of caravans traveling through Mexico has also dropped. In August, six migrant caravans attempted to make it to the border. In May, there were 48.
If these recent trends are to remain permanent, Congress must act, Cuccinelli said. They need to get behind border security and provide the funding necessary for immigration officials to do their job efficiently and safely, he said.
“Time is our opponent here,” he said. “We know we need to get things done by the end of 2020. We can’t assume anything. But I will say, what the federal government thinks as fast and what I think of as fast are very, very different.”