Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez said he supports sending 1,000 more National Guard troops to the U.S. southern border and advocated for closing immigration loopholes to discourage criminal activity.
"Our partners in the Department of Defense have been critical partners of ours in collaborating to help deal with the border crisis we've had and augmenting our border patrol agents, our CBP officers -- all of our operations on the front line to get our agents and officers back to their law enforcement duties," he said on "America's Newsroom" Tuesday.
"This latest request is specifically to help support our ongoing humanitarian crisis and deploy some of those National Guard folks both to additional soft sided facilities that we will be putting up later this month -- in addition to the ones we've already put up, to deal with the overcrowding in our border patrol stations," he continued.
"And also [to] deploy some of that National Guard back to the ports of entry to support the CBP officers, many of which have been redeployed into our border patrol stations -- again to help deal with the front line of this ongoing crisis."
Perez's comments come after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requested the troop surge from the Pentagon on Monday, to help bolster border security efforts in Texas.
He also said the criminal element is thriving on the border and requires reinforcements to help turn the tide and shut down their operations, which include human trafficking and gang-related activity.
"Our agents deal with the criminal element that we are still having to manage, all the while dealing with this ongoing humanitarian challenge," Perez said.
"There are alien smuggling organizations that continue to exploit these loopholes by way of moving these incredibly vulnerable populations, particularly children, through our borders. They're using children as virtual passports, and at times, even recycling them. But there is also other criminal elements. Gang members, drug smugglers, that we absolutely need to pay attention to, and do on a daily basis. Having more of our military partners alongside us will help us perform that mission."
Perez said border officials have been shining a light on the current crisis for a year and a half and called the chaos "unprecedented."
"I think it’s really important to note that for the better part of 18 months, we’ve been sounding the alarms. Letting people know that there was an unprecedented number and volume and different types of demographic that was arriving at our border," he said.
"I think universally people understand that we do have a crisis. It took us nearly two months to convince folks on Capitol Hill that we needed more resources by virtue of a supplemental bill to the tune of $4.5 billion, which we finally have received, to deal with some of the resourcing needs in the immediate term, to deal with this crisis. Now, we need people to focus on the legal loopholes and fix those.
"Those are the loopholes that are being exploited by criminal alien smuggling organizations. Those are the loopholes that -- the most vulnerable populations are being preyed upon by virtue of them -- specifically children, as I just mentioned. And we absolutely need to fix those loopholes to put these criminals out of business."