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DHS chief: Border crossings up 200% over last March

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday cited a large spike in border crossing numbers in March — 200% over last year, including an 800% increase in unaccompanied children — to justify the Trump administration’s border security requests.

Nielsen told the House Appropriations Committee that there has been an uptick in March of the number of people apprehended trying to cross the border illegally or stopped trying to enter the country through a legal port of entry.

Calling it a “dangerous story,” she cited a 200% increase over the previous year, including an 800% increase in the number of unaccompanied children and 680% in families. She also noted a 37% increase in drug seizures.

While there was a significant jump in March compared to February, that jump also was consistent with most recent years, when numbers tend to increase with spring in March.

Nielsen seemed to acknowledge that the numbers in March were still below some years toward the end of the Obama administration, saying they were too high regardless.

“Whether these numbers are at times lower or higher than in years past, it makes little difference,” Nielsen said. “They are unacceptable and must be addressed.”

Nielsen used the surge to justify the need for greater border security and what she called “dangerous loopholes.”

The administration has been pushing Congress to roll back laws and court rulings that were designed to protect children at the border and require their release from detention quickly, as well as a tightening of the process for applying for asylum in the US, calling those issues “legal loopholes” that can be “exploited.”