The acting head of the Trump administration's U.S. Customs and Border Protection asserted during his confirmation hearing that 2017 would mark the lowest rate of illegal crossings across the U.S.-Mexico border in nearly half a century. The immigration official attributed the decline in border crossings attempts to President Donald Trump's "very clear messaging."
On Oct. 24, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan testified before the Senate Finance Committee for his confirmation hearing. McAleenan told the panel that his agency was projecting the lowest number of illegal border crossings across the southwest border in over 45 years for the fiscal year 2017, The Washington Times reports.
"We are fully tallying our 2017 results but in all likelihood it's going to be the lowest level of illegal crossings between ports of entry in over 45 years," McAleenan said.
The CBP acting chief added that the rate of border crossings sharply declined after Trump assumed office. He asserted that the president's rhetoric towards illegal immigration had discouraged potential border crossings.
McAleenan began serving in CBP in 2001 and was appointed deputy commissioner during the Obama administration. He was nominated to head the agency permanently in May but his original confirmation hearing, scheduled for July 13, was stalled following two accusations of misconduct.
The CBP Inspector General investigated the allegations and cleared McAleenan of any wrongdoing, placing him back in contention, according to NBC News.
The acting commissioner's nomination drew bipartisan support. Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii sat beside McAleenan during his confirmation hearing, serving as his sponsor.
"While I don't expect to support everything that CBP will be tasked by the president to do, Kevin's long career in law enforcement and willingness to constructively work with members of the Senate will equip him to lead the agency and commitment to service," Hirono told the Senate committee, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
McAleenan's agency oversees more than 300 U.S. ports of entry and decides who is allowed into the country. He would manage the construction of Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if it receives full funding.
McAleenan told the Senate committee his agency was making progress in tracking visitors to the U.S. and ensuring that they exit the country when their visas expire. He asserted that the rate of illegal immigration would decline even further if the Trump administration's proposed changes to the asylum system were implemented.
"The clear intent to enforce immigration law has resulted in a significant reduction of crossings, but there are still some fundamental aspects of the system that need to be addressed," McAleenan said.
Sources: Honolulu Civil Beat, NBC News, The Washington Times / Featured Image: U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr / Embedded Images: Phil Gingrey/Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr