We have been following the progress of the so-called caravan that has now reached Tijuana and Mexicali. Most recently, John noted Sunday’s attempted breach of the border between Tijuana and San Diego. Via DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Twitter feed, I see that Secretary Nielsen has issued a statement “regarding the recent crisis on our southern border.” The statement is posted here on DHS’s Facebook page, though not on the DHS press release page. I thought readers might want to take it in unfiltered by our media tutors. Here it is:
Given the activities of the last 24 hours at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, I want to provide an update on what occurred and attempt to dispel many of the rumors and much of the misinformation circulating.
First, the violence we saw at the border was entirely predictable. This caravan, unlike previous caravans, had already entered #Mexico violently and attacked border police in two other countries. I refuse to believe that anyone honestly maintains that attacking law enforcement with rocks and projectiles is acceptable. It is shocking that I have to explain this, but officers can be seriously or fatally injured in such attacks. Self-defense isn’t debatable for most law-abiding Americans.
Second, the caravan is far larger and more organized than previous ones. There are 8,500 caravan members in Tijuana and Mexicali. There are reports of additional caravans on their way.
Third, the overwhelming majority of these individuals are not eligible for asylum in the United States under our laws. Historically, less than 10% of those who claim asylum from #Guatemala, #Honduras, and #ElSalvador are found eligible by a federal judge. 90% are not eligible. Most of these migrants are seeking jobs or to join family who are already in the U.S. They have all refused multiple opportunities to seek protection in Mexico or with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Seeking employment or family reunification are not grounds for asylum under our laws, or any international obligation. There are, however, legal ways to seek a job or to be reunited in the U.S.
Fourth, the caravan members are predominately male. It appears in some cases that the limited number of women and children in the caravan are being used by the organizers as “human shields” when they confront law enforcement. They are being put at risk by the caravan organizers as we saw at the Mexico-Guatemala border. This is putting vulnerable people in harms way.
Fifth, we cannot confirm the backgrounds and identities of all caravan members which possess a national security and public safety risk to our country. However, at this point we have confirmed that there are over 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan flow. This includes individuals known to law enforcement for assault, battery, drug crimes, burglary, rape, child abuse and more. This is serious. Additionally, Mexico has already arrested 100 caravan members for criminal violations in Mexico.
Sixth, our Border Patrol agents and officers responded admirably and responsibly to the events on Sunday. It is a testament to their training and professionalism that no one was injured. The accepted use of nonlethal force (also used by the Obama Administration in 2013) prevented further injury to agents and a mass illegal rush across the border. We will not shy away from protecting our people. I ask parents to avoid violent caravan groups and refrain from attempts to illegally enter our country – these acts will put your children in danger.
Seventh, I want to thank President Donald J. Trump again for the decision to send @DeptofDefense to the border to bolster our ports of entry and provide force protection for Customs and Border Protection. This decision likely prevented injuries to personnel and migrants or additional damage to property. Instead of “a political stunt,” as suggested by some, this was in fact the act of a leader concerned about the rule of law.
Eighth, this Administration has been working nonstop to fix our immigration system to address the crisis at the border. We have proposed legislation and asked Congress to pass it. The President has repeatedly made clear what is needed to secure our border and negotiated in good faith. It is time for Congress to do its job. Absent Congressional action courts have misinterpreted existing laws and have made the job of law enforcement far more difficult. But the men and women of DHS will continue to do all we can to enforce the law and DHS and U.S. Department of State will continue negotiations with Mexico and our other partners in the region. We are optimistic that cross border collaboration can help make America, indeed the entire region, more secure.
Finally, this Administration warned about the danger of the caravan. We predicted the violence we saw on Sunday. We prepared to address it with additional personnel and DOD deployments. We will continue to prepare for the next assault while looking for lasting solutions with Congress and our Mexican partners. As always, I want to thank those officers and agents in San Ysidro who, under tremendous strain, used professionalism and restraint to ensure that no one was injured as they were attacked themselves. I also thank DOD and our state & local law enforcement who were on scene to support our people.