During May, US Border officers apprehended and detained more 144,000 people crossing illegally into the US. Since January, these numbers have steadily risen to a 13-year high. Officials say the southern US border is at “crisis” levels.
Randy Howe, the executive director for operations at the US Customs and Border Protection says, “We are bursting at the seams. It is unsustainable.” On a recent phone call, he stated they had 19,293 people in custody and had arrested over 4,100 in that day alone.
CBP officials say that along with the high numbers of people, the type of person is also an overwhelming problem. Over 40% of all those detained are children, many of which are parentless. And according to federal law, children cannot be kept in border jails but must be moved to sustainable shelters and facilities until they can be placed with a sponsor in the US, usually a relative.
Unlike the adults who are processed rather quickly and released into the interior with court appointments, some children are kept for as long as 48 days until room for them can be made elsewhere. During that time, US border agents are obligated to care for these children, providing food, shelter, education, and even recreational activities. This takes thousands of dollars they are unprepared to pay for.
The Trump administration has had the US southern border on their radar since the 2016 election, but progress is not where they would like to see it. As a response to the slow progress being made and the ever-rising population in detainees, Trump is calling for more drastic measures to be taken.
Last month’s threat to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods has been the driving force to get more done. Wednesday, Trump showed that he was serious about his threats and that if no further progress had been made, the tariffs would go into effect on Monday, June 10th.
That same day a Mexican delegation met with White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard led the delegation and later said that he felt optimistic that they could come to a solution.
He went on to say that he didn’t know how lengthy negotiations would be, as several issues were discussed that will “need to be looked at in more detail to try to find some common ground.”
However, one main problem lies in the fact that the White House and Trump are looking for concrete and immediate measures to be taken, while Mexico wants longer-term solutions.
White House trade advisor, Peter Navarro, seconds Ebrard’s hope that a solution can be reached. The fact that they finally have their attention is proof enough. He says that if Mexico can meet three conditions, the tariffs may very well be forgotten.
First and foremost is the need for Mexico to take in those seeking asylum from other surrounding nations. Second, they must strengthen their own southern border patrol to those who would use their country as a pass-through to the US. And thirdly, they need to beef up security at various checkpoints along commonly traveled migrant routes.