Border Patrol chief warns migrant crisis is a ‘national security threat’ and says his biggest fear is not the 1million apprehended this year – but the 140,000 ‘known got-aways’

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • The USBP chief said he is ‘kept awake at night’ by the national security threat posed by hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants flooding into the US 
  • In recent days, migrants have been recorded literally breaking into the country as groups tear through razor wire fences and overwhelm border patrol agents

The US Border Patrol chief said the crisis at the southern border is a ‘national security threat’ that ‘keeps him awake at night’ in a new interview during which he spelled out the danger posed by the millions of illegal migrants who’ve entered the country in recent years.

Border Patrol chief Jason Owens said during a sit-down with CBS News that he is mostly concerned with the tens of thousands of illegal migrants who haven’t been apprehended and processed at the border on their way into the US.

‘What’s keeping me up at night is the 140,000 got aways,’ Owens said – the number of migrants who have snuck into the country undetected since October.

‘Why are they hiding? What do they have to hide? What are they bringing in? What is their intent? Where are they coming from?’ Owens explained are the primary concerns of the USBP about the got-aways, whose backgrounds and locations are virtually unknown to the government.

‘We simply don’t know the answers to those questions. Those things for us are what represent the threat to our communities,’ he said.

Illegal migrants break through razor wire as they forcefully enter the United States via the southern border on March 21, 2024

The US Border Patrol is mere days away from hitting one million apprehensions of migrants in fiscal 2024, which began for the US government last October

Owens said his department is on track to record some two million apprehensions by the time the fiscal year ends in September.

The chief said, ‘border security is a big piece of national security,’ and the illegal migrants being smuggled into the country are ‘exploiting a vulnerability’ facing the nation at present.

He said that the migrants who’ve made their way into the US this year have come from at least 160 different countries, some of which are many continents away.

Routes from Europe and Asia lead to the Darien Gap in Panama, a popular starting point for smugglers leading large groups of migrants north through Central America and eventually into the US, said Owens.

When asked, he added that the flow of illegal migrant into the US is ‘absolutely’ driven by cartels, who ‘set the rules of engagement’ at the border.

During the interview, the 25-year veteran of USBP called for harsher immigration policies – something the Biden Administration has been struggling to make happen.

‘I’m talking about jail time. I’m talking about being removed from the country and I’m talking about being banned from being able to come back because you chose to come in the illegal way instead of the established lawful pathways that we set for you,’ he said.

Despite taking that position, Owens also acknowledged he believes the majority of migrants entering the US illegally are ‘good people’ who are ‘coming across because they’re either fleeing terrible conditions, or they’re economic migrants looking for a better way of life.’

‘I wish they would choose the right way to come into our country and not start off on the wrong foot by breaking our laws,’ he said. 

US National Guard personnel reinforce a fence covered in concertina wire in the vicinity of migrants on the border with Mexico on March 23, 2024

US National Guard personnel reinforce a fence covered in concertina wire in the vicinity of migrants on the border with Mexico on March 23, 2024

A different group of migrants entering Texas attempt to pull down the razor wire standing in between them and the US

A different group of migrants entering Texas attempt to pull down the razor wire standing in between them and the US

President Joe Biden, center, surveys the southern border. He is guided here by USBP chief Jason Owens (center left) on February 29, 2024

President Joe Biden, center, surveys the southern border. He is guided here by USBP chief Jason Owens (center left) on February 29, 2024

US National Guard personnel reinforce a fence covered in concertina wire in the vicinity of migrants on the border with Mexico

US National Guard personnel reinforce a fence covered in concertina wire in the vicinity of migrants on the border with Mexico

In an aerial view, immigrants wait under an international bridge after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico and passing through coils of razor wire on March 17, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas

In an aerial view, immigrants wait under an international bridge after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico and passing through coils of razor wire on March 17, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas

The US is expecting to be grappling with a total number of at least 8 million asylum seekers and migrants who have crossed the southern border by this September.

The staggering figure represents the patterned increase in border crossers over the last half-decade and underscores the challenges faced by what is both an underfunded and antiquated immigration system.

The vast majority of the 8 million are now free to roam US streets, including 2 million ‘high-priority’ cases of career criminals seeking asylum.

The system is buckling under the weight of the rapid numbers of migrants flowing across the border, which reached an all-time high of 302,000 monthly crossings in December, according to the most recently released data.

The backlog has left millions of migrants who are currently residing in the US unsure of whether they will be permitted to stay or be deported – though the Biden Administration has seemingly taken a stance against deportation.

Migrants who cross the border are often forced to wait several years for a decision to be made on their applications. In the meanwhile, they are released into the country, where they make homes for themselves.

Recent data suggests the backlog of migrants awaiting decisions has swelled during President Joe Biden’s term, a reflection of the difficulties his administration has faced in addressing the unprecedented influx of migrants.

By the end of fiscal 2023, more than 6 million migrants were recorded on what officials term the ‘non-detained docket.’

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