DHS council recommends ’emergency’ steps for family surge at border

The Homeland Security Advisory Council announced emergency actions on Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security should take to address the surge of migrant families and children, primarily from Central America, arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The first recommendation is for CBP to establish three or four regional processing centers along the border to shelter all families apprehended at the border, moving the care of migrants away from US Border Patrol.

“The view of the panel, is that thousands of migrants children and national security of our nation are in danger,” said retired Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator and council committee Chair Karen Tandy on a public call regarding the council’s recommendations and findings.

“We recognize that this may require a supplemental of several billions of dollars for construction and administrative costs, but it is the only way to ensure treatment of migrant children that conforms to our values,” reads a draft report of the findings.

The panel was due to provide a full recommendations in May, but presented its “emergency interim report” Tuesday in order to address the surge in families and “what the committee views needs to be undertaken immediately.”

US Border Patrol doesn’t currently have the ability to take care of “phenomenal needs” of the migrants. For example, one Border Patrol station had to take migrants on a 120-mile round trip “just to provide a shower,” Tandy said.

“They [CBP] have cannibalized their special units, taking away form training, horse patrol and other special units to provide care,” Tandy said.

The council also made a number of recommendations for congressional action, including modifying asylum procedures, at least temporarily, so that a hearing and decision can be provided to family members within 20 or 30 days.

The council also recommended a “roll back” of the Flores decision by “exempting children accompanied by a parent or relative, who is acting as the guardian of the child.”

DHS also should be given discretion to detain a close relative with a non-parent family member when this is in the best interest of the child, the council found. The report also recommends that Congress require asylum claims be made at ports of entry, and at the same time provide resources to handle the claims and “put an end to metering.”

When asked if the council considered alternatives to detention, rather than changes to the law, Tandy said they “spent a lot of time on it” but found it impractical.

“In common parlance, we’re talking about ankle bracelets, and we found at bus station, there are overflowing bins of ankle bracelets that have been cut off,” she said.

At the end of the public call this afternoon, the council voted unanimously to send its recommendations to DHS, which is now being led by acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan.

“If recommendations are taken swiftly,” said Tandy, “the panel believes you will see a sharp decline in the crisis at the border.”

McAleenan said in a statement later Tuesday that he found the recommendations “reasonable.”

“The reasonable changes proposed by this nonpartisan panel, could dramatically reduce migration of family units from Central America, help eliminate dangerous and illegal border crossings, as well as improve the care of children who are brought on this harrowing journey,” he said. “These recommendations are essential to secure our border and for the safety and welfare of children living in Central America and elsewhere who will continue to make this dangerous trek north.”

The Homeland Security Advisory Council “provides advice and recommendations to the secretary on matters related to homeland security” and is currently comprised of 30 homeland security experts and practitioners.

The full council is co-chaired by former FBI and CIA Director Judge William Webster and former New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton. Four members of the council resigned last year in the wake of child separations, which they called “morally repugnant.”