Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost spoke to Congress on Thursday about the immigration crisis, and how it’s keeping agents from apprehending migrants who cross the border illegally.

“I have been forced to divert 40% to 60% of Border Patrol’s manpower away from the border as we process and care for nearly 435,000 [families] and children that have flooded across our southern border so far this year,” Provost said Thursday before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on border security, facilitation, and operations.


Border Patrol and other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security have long complained the immigration crisis has forced them away from their enforcement duties, as they must handle the large influx of illegal migrants needing to be processed within the U.S.

Provost said 1,036 illegal migrants were caught in a single group in May—the largest single apprehension in the 95-year history of the Border Patrol. Such overwhelming numbers, she said, have forced her agents to abandon their posts, leaving other illegal migrants able to evade arrests.

“So far this year, we have observed 100,000 people who have successfully evaded arrest, a five-year high in what we call ‘got aways,’” the Border Patrol chief said to lawmakers. “These are just the ones that we know about. Even with [the Department of Defense’s] support, I fear that we are missing far many others.”

It’s not just the number of illegal migrants that is overwhelming immigration agents, but the demographics. U.S. laws are designed to quickly process and deport Mexican adult men traveling alone. However, migrants reaching the U.S southern border today are vastly unaccompanied minors and family units from Central America.

Large swaths of immigration officials have been forced to vacate their normal duties in order to help process these migrants. Customs and Border Protection is in the process of establishing a position solely dedicated to managing and processing migrants in Border Patrol custody.

While most migrants come from Central America, Provost said her agency has encountered migrants from 52 different countries in 2019.

“While smugglers primarily target the Northern Triangle, family units from 52 countries have illegally crossed the southern border so far this year,” she told the committee Thursday. “In just two weeks, more than 740 individuals from African nations—primarily family units—have been apprehended in Del Rio sector alone.”

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