Remarks as prepared for October 29, 2019.
El Paso, TX
Good morning. Thank you all for being here. I want to thank you all for such a warm welcome to the great State of Texas. I also want to welcome our partners in the local law enforcement community:
- Steve McGraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety;
- El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego
- El Paso Mayor Donald “Dee” Margo;
- El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles; and
- El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.
It is appropriate that you all are here with us, as we discuss this year’s border security results, because our law enforcement mission is truly a team effort.
From CBP, I’m joined by:
- Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez;
- Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector Interim Chief Gloria Chavez;
- El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha; and
- Executive Director of Air and Marine Operations for the Southwest Region, Keith Jones.
We are also joined by a number of CBP personnel from the El Paso area. They represent the nearly 60,000 CBP personnel who serve across our nation and around the world.
The men and women of CBP are the reason we have a secure border. They are the reason we have an efficient flow of lawful trade and travel that are so vital to a strong economy.
When CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, and our Air and Marine Operations personnel secure our nation’s borders, they are protecting every city, every county, and every community across the nation.
Today, we are releasing the statistics about our border security and border enforcement mission. I plan to mention some overarching trade and travel numbers, but we will hold a separate event very shortly where we will focus exclusively on CBP’s trade and travel mission.
Today I plan to talk about the extraordinary job the men and women of CBP did during Fiscal Year 2019 – all while facing an unprecedented crisis here on our Southwest border.
Nationwide, CBP’s enforcement actions in Fiscal Year 2019 totaled 1,148,024. More than 1.1 million. That’s a 68 percent increase over FY 2018 – driven mainly by activity at the Southwest Border.
Border Patrol apprehensions totaled 859,501, up 113 percent. Our CBP officers encountered 288,523 inadmissible individuals, an increase of 2.4 percent. And our Air and Marine Operations personnel participated in the apprehension of 52,036 people, an increase of nine percent.
Meanwhile, CBP officers and Border Patrol agents seized nearly 750,000 pounds of dangerous drugs. On top of that, Air and Marine Operations participated in the interdiction of nearly 400,000 pounds of narcotics.
It’s important to note that Border Patrol and OFO seizures of every drug category except marijuana rose in 2019. Seizures of cocaine totaled nearly 101,000 pounds, up 73 percent. Fentanyl interceptions reached nearly 2,800 pounds, up 30 percent. CBP intercepted more than 83,000 pounds of methamphetamine, an increase of 23 percent. And heroin seizures increased by eight percent, totaling more than 6,200 pounds.
The sharp increase in the amount of cocaine seized last year reflects a single 40,000-pound seizure at the Port of Philadelphia in June. However, even without that seizure, CBP increased cocaine interceptions by five percent.
CBP personnel also seized more than $75 million in illicit currency and more than 1,700 inbound weapons – up 300 percent from last year – and 1,095 outbound weapons – nearly 60 percent higher than FY 2018.
Behind virtually all of these threats are transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). They are highly mobile, maintain sophisticated cross-border networks. They engage in a wide range of organized criminal activities including firearms trafficking, drug smuggling, human smuggling, and human trafficking.
Gangs like Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang have been a regional threat for many years, but they have now infiltrated communities across the nation.
TCOs have taken full advantage of the humanitarian crisis, using large groups of families and children as a diversion for criminals, gang members and other dangerous people who attempt to sneak across undetected and move into our neighborhoods.
Despite our response to the humanitarian crisis, Border Patrol arrests of gang members nationwide totaled 976 – up 20 percent from FY 2018.
The threat picture is more than just national security. It also involves our economic security. Ensuring an efficient, secure supply chain, and safe and efficient international travel is imperative for a strong economy.
CBP processed more than 414 million travelers – more than a million every day – and a new record high. Enrollment in our flagship Trusted Traveler Program – Global Entry – was up by 17 percent, and now serves over 6.7 million travelers.
In terms of trade, CBP officers processed $2.45 trillion in imports and screened 28.7 million containers, ensuring that the goods coming into the country are safe and legal. CBP also collected approximately $74.5 billion in duties, taxes, and other fees in FY 2019. That includes nearly $65 billion in duties alone – an increase of nearly 59 percent over the previous fiscal year.
Behind these numbers are the people who get the job done.
Our top mission support priority is to recruit, hire, train, retain, and support a world-class, resilient workforce.
CBP hiring outpaced attrition in FY 2019. In fact, CBP surpassed FY 2018 hiring by 46 percent, hiring a total of 3,448 law enforcement personnel, compared to 2,357 in FY 2018.
Our staffing levels for CBP officers increased by 1,034 for a total of 24,511. Our staffing levels for Border Patrol agents increased by 93, for a total of 19,648.
We are also actively working to minimize attrition so we can retain experienced agents and officers who are essential to securing the border.
This has been especially crucial here on the Southwest border, where FY 2019 was extremely challenging. Month after month of large groups of migrants – many from Central America who claimed asylum – placed an enormous strain on our front line.
In just one 24-hour period, we recorded more than 5,800 border crossings. During the month of May, a total of 144,000 people crossed the border. On one single day we had nearly 20,000 in custody.
During Fiscal Year 2019, CBP’s enforcement actions on the Southwest border totaled nearly 978,000. Furthermore, we have proof that nearly 150,000 people “got away” from us, because too many of our agents were pulled off the line to cope with the crisis.
The U.S. Border Patrol bore the brunt of this activity, particularly here on the Southwest border, where apprehensions totaled 851,508. This number is just staggering – it’s 115 percent higher than the previous fiscal year – and it was driven largely by family units and unaccompanied children.
The number of family units arriving on our Southwest border totaled 473,682 – the highest year on record and 342 percent higher than FY 2018’s previous high of 107,212. The number of unaccompanied children reached 76,020 – 26 percent higher than FY 2018’s figure of 58,660.
CBP’s Office of Field Operations also encountered 126,001 inadmissible aliens – roughly 2,500 more than FY 2018 and 42 percent more than FY 2014 – our previous “record.”
Still, in the midst of this turmoil, and under extraordinary, challenging circumstances, our agents went above and beyond, rescuing people at risk of drowning in rivers and canals, dying in the desert, or abandoned in locked tractor-trailers. In fact, in Fiscal Year 2019, CBP personnel rescued more than 4,900 people on our Southwest border alone.
Finally, since we are here in front of this section of new border wall here in the border enforcement zone, let me provide you with a quick progress report.
CBP – with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – is fulfilling the President’s mandate to build a physical barrier to protect our nation. We have now completed 76 miles of new border wall system in place of dilapidated and/or outdated designs in San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, and El Paso Sectors – including this section right behind me. This new barrier is essential to our nation’s border security.
By the end of 2020, CBP expects to have completed 450 miles of new border wall system. We will also have an additional 59 miles under construction in high priority locations across the Southwest border, pending real estate availability.
I’ve said it before: what goes on at the border impacts every community … and the wall is absolutely essential.
I also want to emphasize this point – the United States is a welcoming nation. We welcome travelers and immigrants who have respected our laws and legally sought entry into the United States through one of our Ports of Entry.
But for those who wish to ignore our laws, our message is this – STOP. We will not tolerate illegal immigration across our borders.
No immigration system in the world is designed to handle the volumes of families and unaccompanied children that we saw earlier this year on the Southwest border – particularly here in El Paso and over in the Rio Grande Valley.
Our Border Patrol facilities are designed mainly for single adults. They are more like police stations than shelters. They are not designed for holding people for long periods of time, and they are especially unsuitable for families and children.
Most migrants paid criminal organizations to help them get here. Many human smugglers use migrants as drug mules or subject them to extortion, assault, and sexual exploitation.
Migrants often arrive sick, injured, or traumatized. The TCOs stand to make as much as $2.5 billion from this criminal enterprise this year alone. TCOs learned that the United States could not resolve illegal immigration cases due to judicial activism in the courts that undermined the integrity of our immigration enforcement system.
We must remember that this humanitarian crisis created a border security crisis. And, because border security is national security, we had a national security crisis on our hands for the better part of FY 2019.
The crisis quickly strained our resources and forced the diversion of some essential border security personnel – including 731 CBP officers from our Office of Field Operations and more than 3,600 Border Patrol agents from other regions – to assist here in the Southwest.
We called out this crisis early on and asked Congress to act – to provide emergency funds and to fix our broken immigration laws. We eventually got the emergency funding that enabled us to build several temporary, soft-sided facilities to address the special needs of families and unaccompanied children.
This Administration’s engagement with the Government of Mexico has helped significantly. CBP has enrolled more than 55,000 people in the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP – returning many to Mexico to await their immigration hearings. Mexico is providing humanitarian protections and even work-authorizations to these individuals during their stay.
This administration has also signed important asylum agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – and these agreements enable the U.S. to return some asylum-seekers to their home countries.
From a high of nearly 20,000 in custody at the Southwest border, we now average 4,000 – and that’s still too high. The average number of unaccompanied children in custody has been reduced from more than 2,700 to only about 100. At border stations, times in custody have also been reduced dramatically, with children moving to well-equipped HHS facilities in less than 24 hours.
At the same time, we must not become complacent. Large groups continue to make their way here. Just last week, Border Patrol agents encountered 103 people on the border near Sasabe, Arizona.
I mentioned rescues earlier. Every day, CBP agents and officers “answer the call” to ensure the safety of everyone they encounter. And right now, I would like to recognize one of these heroes.
Last week, El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agent Luke Golike was awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. He went above and beyond to save an individual from the dangerous waters of the American Canal in 2017.
Congress created this award in 2008 to honor those in law enforcement who have shown exceptional bravery in the line of duty. Agent Golike, you are a credit to CBP’s workforce – thank you.
In closing, as you have all heard today, our mission is incredibly complex. Our uniformed personnel – and the thousands of career professionals who support them – keep our country safe in countless ways.
I hope I have provided a clear, comprehensive picture of what Fiscal Year 2019 looked like for the men and women of CBP. I want to thank you all for attending this event here this morning. I also want to thank the CBP leadership joining me here today, as well as our honored guests.