Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress on Wednesday that the situation at the U.S. southern border is "truly an emergency."
The United States is experiencing a "real serious and sustained crisis at our borders," Nielsen said during a hearing before the House Committee on Homeland Security. There are tens of thousands of illegal immigrants arriving at the country's doorstep of the United States every month, all while smugglers and human traffickers exploit people who are seeking a better life, she added during her opening remarks.
"Make no mistake, this chain of human misery is getting worse. Yesterday, we announced that the numbers of apprehension at our southern border have spiked again substantially," Nielsen said. "Since late last year, we have been seeing 50,000 to 60,000 migrants arrive at our southern border each month. But in February, we saw a 30 percent jump over the previous month, with agents apprehending or encountering nearly 75,000 aliens. This is an 80 percent increase over the same time last year."
Nielsen, citing forecasts from Customs and Border Protection, noted more migrants are expected at the southern border as the weather warms up, which "will overwhelm the system entirely."
"The projections are dire," she said. "The agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fiscal year than the entirety of [fiscal year 2017]. And at the current pace, we are on track to encounter close to one million illegal aliens at our southern border this year."
"This is not a manufactured crisis. This is truly an emergency," she said.
Nielsen also relayed during the hearing how, given the dangerous and abusive nature of the journey many migrants experience to reach the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must give every migrant girl over the age of 10 a pregnancy test when they cross the border.