08:31 GMT +318 August 2019
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    US ICE Chief: Migrant Families ‘Distract’ Agents from Catching Dangerous People

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    Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Ronald Vitiello has complained that treating the medical needs of immigrants and processing migrant families is distracting his agents from arresting dangerous individuals at the border, a contention immigrants rights experts scoff at.

    Last Saturday, US Customs and Border Protections (CBP) agents found 15 Chinese nationals in a tractor trailer at an immigrant checkpoint about 70 miles north of McAllen, Texas. Agents working at the Falfurrias checkpoint in Brooks County found the 15 immigrants hidden with the cargo. 

    Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Ronald Vitiello recently complained that his agents are "distracted" by having to attend to the needs of immigrant families and individuals arriving in need of medical attention. "The patrol is distracted," Vitiello told reporters at the 2019 Border Security Expo that took place between March 26 and March 28. "And then, we're not able to pursue the cases that we want to on the deportation side because we've had this surge," he said, also adding that ICE officials have also been distracted by processing paperwork for the high number of families being taken into CBP custody over the past few months.

    Vitiello complained that these duties could allow potential dangerous security threats to slip across the border, as the Chinese migrants had. 

    Juan Jose Gutierrez, executive director of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, told Sputnik Wednesday that "there are more Border Patrol agents along the US Mexico border than ever before," and that fact is "conveniently overlooked by the acting director of ICE," even when "immigration experts have documented that undocumented flows into the US is at an all time low."

    "I am appalled by the ICE acting director's classical racist demagoguery, where instead of laying blame for his work-related problems where it belongs, he chooses to blame the victims. In other words, the tired, inhuman and failed immigration policies of the US government are the problem, but [Vitiello] chooses to assign blame to poor, working-class immigrants who are escaping dire poverty and extreme violence," he added.

    A senior US counterterror official who spoke to Voice of America on the condition of anonymity back in November also said there is no real threat of Middle Eastern terrorists trying to infiltrate the US from the Southern border.

    "We do not see any evidence that ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern US border," the official said, even though US President Donald Trump has previously implied that the migrant caravans headed the Southern border are holding "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has also claimed that "nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally" last year, warning that the "most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border."

    ​In January, Nicholas J. Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also affirmed that there is "no wave of terrorist operatives waiting to cross overland into the United States," the New York Times reported. "It simply isn't true."

    The CBP, which is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, has spent more than $98 million dollars on medical services for people in CBP custody between 2014 and 2018, according to the agency's data.

    However, ICE has an annual budget many, many times that: its 2018 budget was $7.6 billion, while Trump's 2020 budget request proposed increasing CBP funding to $18.2 billion and ICE funding to $8.8. ICE is the investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security, while the CBP is a sister agency of ICE, responsible for protecting the nation's borders.

    According to a January report by the CBP, there has been an increase in the number of "apprehended individuals" who require medical attention. Since December 22, 2018, US Border Patrol officials have transported 2,224 people to local hospitals. In fiscal year 2018, border patrol officials spent 19,229 hours transporting individuals to and from hospitals and monitoring each person/family at the hospital. "This means there are less agents performing border security duties," the CBP report states.

    "The US Border Patrol is sending about 55 people every single day for medical treatment," Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Marcelino Medina said in a statement to multiple news sources. "At this rate, we're on track to send about 31,000 people for medical treatment this year as in compared to last year, where it was only about 12,000 people." 

    "We have people traveling on freight trains, jumping off and breaking ankles and coming off severely injured as they arrive on the US side. The conditions that we've seen for children, congenital issues where doctors have advised this child needs surgery within two weeks to repair this, and they got on a bus to the US border and report that to the agent as they arrive," Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

    However, US Border Patrol agents also routinely engage in actions that endanger the life and health of migrants — such as destroying food and water caches left in the desert between the US and Mexico.

    A report recently published by two humanitarian organizations, La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths, reveals that US Border Patrol agents often vandalize water and food caches left for immigrants in an attempt to punish people who cross into the US.

    "The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands," the report states.

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    smuggling, border control, US Customs and Border Patrol, China, United States
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