A border agent who patrols the Rio Grand Valley in Texas told the Senate Wednesday that illegal immigrants continue to stream into the U.S. from Mexico because they are confident they'll be released quickly by U.S. authorities.
"Most believe that they will either not be caught, or even if they are caught, they will not be deported back to their home country," Agent Chris Cabrera told the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee in prepared testimony. "The UACs and family groups we detain are acutely aware of the fact we will not hold them until they are adjudicated."
"UAC" is short for "unaccompanied alien children," and more than 66,000 of them were apprehended in fiscal year 2014. That number has been cut nearly in half from those crisis levels, and in fiscal year 2015, which just ended, 35,000 UACs were caught.
But Cabrera said those numbers are still too high, and said thousands of children and families continue to brave the journey because of the low chances of being caught. He said it's well known by these immigrants that the U.S. is not detaining and deporting people, but is instead catching and releasing them.
"They know that they will be released and issued a Notice to Appear (NTA)," Cabrera said. "What we have right now is essentially a catch-and-release policy. This coupled with violence and instability in their home country is driving the continued flow of UACs and family groups."