So the Senate, in its infinite wisdom and steadfast constitutional fidelity, announced that it will vote against President Trump’s executive order declaring the crisis on the southern border a national emergency. Democrats and Republicans joined hands to rebuke the president’s plan to divert money from already appropriated funds to build a wall.

Many of those elected officials and pundits on right decried a “power grab” by the president while doing something about a situation that many of these same people readily admit cannot continue in its current form.

Talk of retaking constitutional authority is a welcome change from the usual political norms, but more than disingenuous when you consider what our national emergency declarations consisted of in the past. Even more disingenuous was the lack of spine to take back extraordinary constitutional duties, never necessitating a rebuke via floor vote, during past administrations which used power beyond what President Trump and his administration is employing.

Congress has ceded its power to the Executive Branch since the day the Constitution was signed, without ever showing signs of regret or reversal. Heaven forbid that President Trump gets to use any of those powers, though.

In a press conference by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) on Monday we found out just how bad of an emergency we have on our hands. Not only is there an emergency, but the “breaking point” described by CBP at the southern border has the potential to turn into a national disaster for both humanitarian and security reasons.

In the past five and a half months of the fiscal year CBP has apprehended the same number of illegal border crossers as they arrested in the previous twelve months, and approximately 66,000 of those were in February alone.

That is a 97 percent increase over the same time frame during the previous fiscal year. The number of total apprehensions was 268,000 from October 2018 through February 2019.

I absolutely encourage you to watch the press conference for yourself at (click newsroom then video gallery)… but here were just a few of my takeaways:

• 76,325 apprehensions and non-admissable - this is a 31 percent increase from January

• 40,325 family units; 7,249 unaccompanied minors apprehended

• Number of apprehensions at the border in February were higher than any February of the past 12 years

• 31,000 were referred for medical care, up 12,000 from last February

• October 2018 family unit apprehensions exceeded single apprehensions for the first time

• By February 2019, family units make up 65 percent of apprehensions and 60 percent of the year-to-date numbers

• Changing demographics and geography of those trying to enter illegally make repatriating harder and more costly - with the Northern Triangle of Guatemala No. 1 since November 2018, Honduras No. 2 as of February 2019; and El Salvador now accounting for 70 percent of apprehensions

• 60 percent of the current fiscal year apprehensions involve juveniles

None of this is good news, no matter what side of the immigration issue you are on. Not even attempting to solve this problem, and thinking that the status quo is acceptable because of the 2020 election is craven politics.

Danger lies ahead if we continue to allow a working policy of “come with a child and you will not be detained, you will be released into the interior with no repercussions, except a court date.” This is common knowledge among those seeking entrance to our country, and spreads quickly by word of mouth and social media to the migrants who are heading this way.

During the last fiscal year there were over 2,400 fraud claims in these family unit apprehensions, either involving age fraud where migrant’s claim children to be under 18 when they are not, or actual fraud of the family unit with children brought into the country who are not the migrant’s actual family. Some of the family fraud is child trafficking; some stems from migrants trying to game the system. CBP does not have room to house these family units in the numbers that are migrating to the United States, and in cases of trafficking may not even know  to where the child should be returned.

Beyond the sheer numbers reported by CBP, the biggest threat to border patrol are the staggering increases of large groups trying to illegally enter the border in remote rural areas. CBP defines large groups as ones totaling over 100 migrants and children. These groups are much like the ones trying to cross the border that made national news recently. In just this fiscal year, since last October, there have been over 70 large groups apprehended, as compared to 13 and two, respectively, in the previous two fiscal years.

Last year there were approximately 13,000 apprehensions who migrated in large groups. The CBP is currently at 12,000 for this year and on track to apprehend 174 large groups totaling 29,000 deportations.

These numbers boggle the brain, and elevate the blood pressure.

The worst part of this new phenomenon of groups rushing the border is that drug cartels are now using the migrant groups to divert border patrol resources and agents to allow drug crossings to happen unimpeded miles away from the migrants, and agents dispatched to apprehend them.

From a humanitarian standpoint, these crossings happen many miles away from medical and transportation facilities that CBP has at port of entry locations. That means that these migrants can not get the attention they sometimes need in a timely manner, and it consumes the time and financial resources of Border Patrol agents.

The Border Patrol calling this a breaking point seems, if anything, a little understated. Unchecked migration will not only overwhelm the immigration system but burden every social welfare system we have in place. Impacts may include overcrowded schools, hospitals and jails, and the re-emergence of diseases previously eradicated in the United States.

Unlike many past crises that supposedly necessitated the extraordinary growth of government power, securing our national border is actually proscribed in our Constitution. It is literally part of defending our nation.

We must forge a rational immigration policy that both allows immigration and benefits our citizens and nation first.

Yes, technology is part of the answer. But an actual fence, wall or barrier is necessary to divert migrants to our ports of entry, where there are added controls of access and security.

At the end of the day, as long as we have elected officials living in gated communities, I will not accept the argument that walls don’t work and neither should you.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.