Illegals being processed at the McAllen Border Patrol Station in Texas in the summer of 2014. The 2016 totals are on pace to eclipse the record numbers set in 2014.

Illegals being processed at the McAllen Border Patrol Station in Texas in the summer of 2014. The 2016 totals are on pace to eclipse the record numbers set in 2014.

While it hasn’t dominated the news as it did two years ago, the U.S. is on track to receive a record number of illegal unaccompanied minors from Central America in 2016.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee was briefed on the border issue Tuesday by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

From the beginning of the fiscal year, Johnson told the committee, officials have apprehended 23,533 unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 trying to cross the border.

“I think we’re possibly beyond crisis proportions here,” said Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. “Four months and we’re up to 23,000 already… 2014 was a crisis, right now I think we’re running ahead of 2014 levels.”

“If we maintain this pace, we’ll have 77,000 in 2016,” he said. The record was set in 2014, when Customs and Border Protection reported 68,541 children were apprehended at the border.

The Homeland Security chief said his agency nonetheless had a “pretty good year” in 2015.

His agency last year apprehended just under 30,000 unaccompanied alien children or UACs.

“I want to compare numbers with you,” Jeh Johnson said. “We had a pretty good year, it was down significantly from FY14 in terms of total apprehensions along the southwest border.

“In the fall, October, November, December, we saw an increase,” he said. “The number was 6,775 in the month of December. In January, the number went down by more than half … to 3,111. In February, 3,113.”

The Wisconsin senator did not back down from his concern. “Again, the point being … 2014 was a crisis, right now I think we’re running ahead of 2014 levels from the numbers I’m getting.”

Record immigration numbers has Americans concerned

The exchange follows a report by the Center for Immigration Studies earlier this week that estimated a record 61 million immigrants and American-born children living in the United States, including 15.7 million doing so illegally.

And a new poll out this week shows 61 percent of Americans across all age groups and political affiliations believe immigration jeopardizes America’s future. The survey, conducted by .T. Kearney and NPD Group, was a stunning number because it did not ask just about “illegal” immigration but rather legal and illegal.

Even GOP presidential contender Donald Trump has said he is in favor of legal immigration.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, said the 61 percent figure is no doubt a reflection of the Obama administration’s inept border policies.

“For our top Homeland Security officials to go before Congress and just shrug their shoulders and throw up their hands and say ‘well this is the new normal’ is just outrageous when this whole phenomenon is a result of their policies and their refusal to change,” Vaughan said. “So our communities are left holding the bag, left to suffer.”

‘Catch and release’

The Obama administration could halt the tide of UACs in short order if it wanted to, Vaughan said.

Jessica Vaughan, research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies

Jessica Vaughan, research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies

“The reason for this (flood of illegals) is this administration is maintaining the same failed policies it has all along, which is essentially catch and release,” she said. “So there is a significant incentive for people to be caught at the border because they know they are going to be allowed to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. This is downright malpractice on the part of the federal government because we also know that a very tiny percentage of the people being caught in the country are in any danger of being deported.”

Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu, said at a press conference Tuesday that Obama has politicized the U.S. Border Patrol agency. He accused the administration of manipulating data and assigning agents to low-traffic areas while ignoring the areas of high smuggling activity.

According to figures released by Babeu, traffic of illegal immigrants in the first four months of this fiscal year is up by 25 percent. He said there’s been a 102 percent increase in unaccompanied juveniles.

“What we see from this administration is an actual reduction at a time we should be providing more support to secure our border,” Babeu said.

Recent estimates are that about 3 percent of those who came illegally as women or children have been deported. And many of those are people who came years ago and are no longer minors, Vaughan said.

“The ones who have come here recently are barely even targets for deportation unless they are guilty of serious crimes, and even some of them are not being deported,” she said. “There have been UACs charged with rape, murder and other violent crimes in Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and California, and there are likely more than we know because if they’re juveniles their records are kept confidential.”

Not only is the administration’s policy costly in terms of paying for the school, healthcare and welfare of unaccompanied children, but it also has an impact on public safety.

“We have been able to learn that certain gangs, MS-13 in particular, have been able to take advantage of catch and release, because they know they’re going to get through, and our communities are paying the price,” Vaughan said.

The administration’s policy of catch and release has also not been good for the children in many cases.

“They make almost no effort to check out the people who are coming forward to take care of these children, making no effort to check out the backgrounds of those coming forward, to check their criminal backgrounds, whether they can afford to provide for these kids, etcetera,” Vaughan said. “It’s a see-no-evil approach so these worst case scenarios continue to happen.”

This bad border policy feeds on itself, too.

Last year more than 43,000 Cubans entered the U.S. without visas and they’re not coming in flotillas across the sea.

Three-quarters of them came through Mexico, up 78 percent from the previous year and a six-fold increase from the start of the Obama administration, according to National Review.

“The Cubans have seen how we’re treating the Central Americans so now they’re starting to come and take advantage of our border, also we’re seeing illegals from Africa and the Middle East,” Vaughan said. “To say this policy is negligence is an understatement, and victims are starting to pile up.”

While those who support Obama’s policy often argue their case based on America’s compassion for the downtrodden, Vaughan said that is short sighted.

“I wish they would show the same compassion to their fellow Americans and veterans who are harmed by these policies,” she said. “And there are more effective ways to help them than bringing them here.”

WND reported in January that Obama has afforded refugee status to Central American illegals, which provides access to a smorgasbord of new welfare opportunities. This will significantly boost the cost of integrating them into U.S. society.

A CIS study last year found that for the cost of resettling every Middle Eastern refugee in the United States, 12 refugees could be helped in the Middle East region over a five-year period.

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