Homeland Security chief backtracks on splitting families

Though it's unclear whether the decline in captures will continue, it upends almost two decades of immigration arrests along the southern border.

In written testimony, Kelly said about 11,000 people traveling as families were caught trying to cross the Mexican border into the USA illegally last month.

"It is unlikely that we will build a wall, a physical barrier, from sea to shining sea", said the retired general in his appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, paraphrasing the lyrics of "America the attractive".

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), for example, told Kelly that many senators are not going to approve building a concrete southern border wall "from sea to shining sea" when they don't really know what they're getting into financially.

"But we'll do something across the Southwest border", Kelly said.

"We will do something to secure our border, you all know we're looking at that - but what it will look like, how thick it will be, what color it will be, has yet to be determined, but we do know that physical borders work when they are put in the right places", Kelly said.

"This administration said we're going to address illegal immigration".

He noted that the drop in apprehensions includes a "dramatic reduction" in the number of families and minors making the trip - a key focus of Kelly's as he emphasizes how unsafe and predatory the smuggling pathways that bring undocumented immigrants to the USA are. The AP notes the prototypes are expected to cost about $200,000 to $500,000 each; estimates for the cost of the wall covering the 2,000-mile border, however, range up to $38 billion.

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The head of Homeland Security said March was the fifth straight month border arrests declined and marked the lowest monthly number of arrests in the last 17 years.

A government official who reportedly has knowledge of President Donald Trump's major national security project maintains that four of the 10 border wall job bidders will likely be selected to build prototypes of their border wall design, the Daily Mail reports.

Since taking office, Trump has also expanded the authority of the department to identify undocumented aliens for possible deportation as part of his sweeping immigration agenda.

A worker repairs part of a border wall in San Diego.

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Higher demand allowed the smugglers to charge more to get to the US last year, according to Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Kelly also took some credit for himself, saying that his direct plea to government officials in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala along with conversations with church leaders and others in the region have helped curb the number of people trying to sneak into the United States.

Sitting at Sacred Heart last month, Gonzalez and his children finished bowls of soup and waited for a bus to take them west toward relatives in California.

"Next time you do a travel ban, how about thinking it through", McCain said.

  • Sonia Alvarado