Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson returned to South Texas, and brought with him an interagency team that included White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz, the Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft and senior officials from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Health and Human Services (HHS). Secretary Johnson and the group traveled to Texas to visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, to oversee the ongoing government-wide response to the recent influx of unaccompanied children and adults with children across the Southwest Border.
At the McAllen Border Patrol Station, the senior officials met with Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz to discuss challenges and recommended solutions to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children. The group then went to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where they reviewed site operations, and met with HHS officials to discuss the operations at the facility, which is currently housing unaccompanied children.
Over the past few months, CBP has seen a significant increase in the apprehension of unaccompanied children and adults with children from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley area of the Southwest Border. While overall border apprehensions across our entire border have only slightly increased during this time period and remain at near historic lows, the rise in apprehensions and processing of children in the Rio Grande Valley present unique operational challenges for DHS and HHS. CBP has today provided updated apprehension data for the Southwest Border.
As part of the government-wide response to the humanitarian situation along the Southwest Border and in the Rio Grande Valley specifically, DHS today announced that it will establish a temporary facility for adults with children on the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Artesia, N.M. campus. The establishment of this facility will allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to increase its capacity to house and process individuals in a humane manner. This facility is also one of several that DHS is considering at to increase our capacity to hold and expedite the removal of the increasing number of adults with children illegally crossing the southwest border.
At the direction of President Barack Obama and Secretary Johnson, on June 1, a Unified Coordination Group was established to leverage Federal resources to provide humanitarian relief to the ongoing situation. This includes DHS and all of its components, HHS, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, GSA, and the Department of State. Secretary Johnson appointed FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to serve as the Federal Coordinating Official for this U.S. Government-wide effort.
During today's trip, Secretary Johnson made this statement: "This is my fourth visit to South Texas since I took office six months ago, and my second dedicated to addressing the recent surge in illegal border crossings here. I met with our personnel and also spoke again with many children who took the long journey from Central America to find a parent or a better life in the United States. Their stories are a vivid reminder that the issue we face is as much a humanitarian one as it is a matter of border security. With the recent surge in interagency resources to deal with the situation, our people are moving the increased numbers of children, families and adults through the process in a safe and humane manner. Our personnel are doing a professional and heroic job. We are adding even more resources to handle the increased numbers. Still, we must stem this new tide of illegal migration. We are building additional detention capacity for adults who are apprehended crossing our border illegally with their children, and will increase the number of expedited removals from among this population, consistent with our laws. Additionally, the Vice President had very productive meetings today with officials from the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador on this issue. We are sending the message, in Spanish and English, to parents about the dangers of entrusting your child to a criminal smuggling organization to bring them on the long journey to the U.S. We are doing a number of things to address this situation. We are exploring every lawful option to stem the tide and, with the combined efforts of multiple components of our government, the support of Congress, and our partnerships with our allies in Mexico and Central America. I believe we will."