Deputy Attorney General James Cole made a return trip today to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s McAllen Station and processing facility to discuss steps the Department of Justice is taking to help address the influx of migrants crossing the southwest border.
Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz gave the Deputy Attorney General a tour of the facility and a briefing on the operations at McAllen. McAllen staff discussed the numbers of migrants that are arriving each day, including the numbers of unaccompanied children, families and adults; and the reasons, including violence in Central American countries, that many are giving for making the dangerous trek to the U.S. border. Cole also viewed the station’s processing facility, where migrants who have arrived in the past few days are housed.
During his talk with McAllen staff, Cole took the opportunity to highlight the Justice Department’s commitment to prioritizing adjudication of cases that fall into the following four groups: unaccompanied children who recently crossed the border; families who recently crossed the border and are held in detention; families who recently crossed the border but are on “alternatives to detention;” and other detained cases, including border crossers and significant public safety threats. He also emphasized that the department’s intention to reassign immigration judges in immigration courts around the country from their current dockets to hear the cases of individuals falling in these four groups.
Cole noted that the department is also seeking new funding for as many as 40 more immigration judges and to provide technical assistance to Central American countries in identifying and dismantling smuggling operations that take advantage of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. He also noted that the department has requested funding to provide technical assistance in combating transnational crime and the threat posed by criminal gangs. Cole reiterated that the department continues to focus on investigating and prosecuting smugglers who exploit and victimize vulnerable migrants, including children, in partnership with DHS and foreign governments. The discussion with McAllen staff also included a productive exchange of ideas on strategic ways to combat smuggling.
The Deputy Attorney General was impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the McAllen staff and thanked them for their service. Cole last visited the facility in November 2013.