Border Patrol agents are reporting that they are overwhelmed by a massive uptick in illegal immigration of unaccompanied foreign children, leaving some members of the force stuck serving food to kids and ordering various supplies such as baby wipes, according to Mark Morgan, chief of the Border Patrol, which operates within the Department of Homeland Security.
Border agents have expressed shock at the menial tasks they've been required to perform following a massive flow of illegal immigrant children across the U.S. southern border, according to Morgan, who warned that the force is being strained as a result of this influx.
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During one recent trip to a border patrol outpost, "the supervisor in charge said, ‘Chief, we're going to do whatever this country asks us to do, but I never thought in my 20 years that I would be, as part of procurement, ordering baby powder and baby wipes,'" Morgan recalled during Wednesday testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"I just got from one sector," Morgan continued, "where agents, one of their jobs during the day, is to actually make sure the food, the burritos we're providing are being warmed properly. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to do this."
The number of unaccompanied children and families traveling from Central America to the United States has increased significantly during the past few years.
The number crossing the U.S. border from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador has jumped to 46,893 in fiscal 2016, up from 28,387 in 2015, according to statistics provided by Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), the committee's chair.
Johnson said these numbers are not being publicized enough in the media.
"My concern is we're not publicizing it because the border patrol has" quietly been handling the situation on its own, he said.
Morgan warned the committee that nearly all of the children and families apprehended on the border are released into the United States.
"Basically 100 percent of those family units and [unaccompanied children] are released into the U.S." Morgan said, expressing distress at the amount of border patrol resources now being "dedicated to being professional child care providers at this point."
Johnson offered statistics showing that just under 4 percent of illegal immigrants apprehended are sent back to their country of origin.
"We're returning less than four percent," Johnson said. "So isn't the reality that if you come as an unaccompanied child from Central America and you get into this country—and by the way it's easy to get here—you just walk across the bridge, turn yourself in, you're apprehended and processed, and disbursed."
"They have access to social media, so more children, more families from Central America realize, it creates an incentive," Johnson said. "Pay the fee, make the journey because if you get to America, you can stay."
Morgan agreed with this assessment, stating, "right now, they know that if they make it to the border they will be released into the interior of the United States."
"That sends a strong message to those folks in those countries, that if you get to the United States border, we'll let you in," Morgan said.