Acting DHS secretary expects border crossings to drop by 25% in June

/ CBS/AP

House passes Senate version of border aid bill

The acting secretary of Homeland Security said he expected 25% fewer migrants to cross the border this month, as officials in Yuma unveiled their latest outdoor facility meant to detain children and families.

The number of illegal crossings would still be too high, but it was a start, Kevin McAleenan said, crediting Mexico with a concentrated effort to stop Central Americans before they arrived even to Mexico — a push prompted by threats of tariffs by President Trump.

The president has seen numbers of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border skyrocket under his term despite his hardline policies and tough-talk. More than 100,000 people, mostly families from Central America, have crossed the border each month over the past few months. Trump sees the monthly border numbers as a benchmark for success, and during previous months when he felt numbers were too high, he threatened to shut down the entire border.

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McAleenan dismissed the idea that a projected decrease in June was due in part to hot summer months, traditionally a time fewer people crossed.

"These initiatives are making an impact," he said.

Meanwhile, facilities that house detained migrants are vastly overcrowded and advocates and attorneys have decried conditions inside. Border facilities are meant as temporary holding stations, built to hold a maximum of about 4,000, but have routinely held as many as 15,000.

Teens and children, detained days or weeks by U.S. border authorities, described frigid cells where flu-stricken youngsters in dirty clothes ran fevers, vomited and cried with no idea when they would be getting out, according to court documents in a case that governs how children are cared for in government custody.

On Thursday, Congress sent President Trump a $4.6 billion package that bolsters care for the tens of thousands of arrivals taken into custody. McAleenan praised the move, but also cautioned there was much more work to do.

McAleenan said that some of the funding would go immediately into the construction of additional temporary facilities.

"We've been building them for months, and we have significant additional contracts underway that are going to come online in mid-July," he said. "This funding can be applied directly to those contracts." DHS started building the facilities in anticipation of either securing the funding or reprogramming funds from other DHS areas. McAleenan said that "another thousand beds" were available by last Wednesday.

In Yuma, construction on the new 500-person tent facility began about two weeks ago. Journalists were expected to get a tour of the facility before migrants are placed there.

McAleenan also spoke of the tragic image of a father and his toddler, drowned on the banks of the Rio Grande.

"The situation should not be acceptable to any of us," he said of the deaths. "It should galvanize action and real debate … And yet here in Washington we have collectively failed to end this crisis. This is not on the men and women of DHS. They deserve better and so do the families of children."

First published on June 28, 2019 / 4:38 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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