Acting ICE director on border crisis: 'The system's in a meltdown'
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “maxed out” its detention capacity and is seeking more detention beds across the country, current acting ICE director Ron Vitiello said Thursday.
“The system’s in a meltdown” and getting worse every day, Vitiello told "America's Newsroom."
“It’s an absolute crisis down there, it has humanitarian aspects, it has border security aspects, this policy can’t continue,” he added.
On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the Trump administration is treating the immigration crisis as a “Cat 5 hurricane disaster.” Nielsen is visiting ports of entry at the southern border this week and will join President Donald Trump in California on Friday near a section of border wall.
“What he’s going to see is this unbelievable flow at the border and no way for us to legally address it without Congress acting,” Vitiello said about the president's upcoming trip to the border.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the highest number of apprehensions in 12 years was reported in February. The surge in numbers has led President Trump to threaten to close the southern border if Mexico did not stem the numbers flowing north and if Congress did not act.
On Wednesday Trump tweeted, “Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border! If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!”
“CBP reported yesterday they have over 12,000 people in custody. We’re maxed out,” said Vitiello, adding 48,000 adult detention beds are currently being used across the country and there is a need for more.
“The system is overflowing and an example, statistically, nearly 130,000 families (have been) released into the interior of the United States just since December of last year, so the system’s in a meltdown. There’s humanitarian aspects to this that can’t continue and the border security aspects, it’s just a terrible situation for the folks that are down there,” he said.
On Wednesday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Democratic presidential candidate, Julian Castro, slammed those who said families coming to the southern border pose a national security threat to the U.S.
“I don’t believe they are criminals, I don’t believe that they should be treated as criminals,” Castro said while speaking at National Action Network's annual convention in New York City.
“If you cross the border illegally, that’s a crime in this country,” Vitiello said in response. “We need to stop encouraging people with their children, to send their children to the border. There is a crisis down there. It’s not manufactured.”
He added, “People need to understand that this a real problem and we need to do something about it.”