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Exclusive: Retired border chief says Michigan, other states face impacts of border crisis


(The Center Square) – The reported immigration wave at the southern border is a crisis of national security, and Michigan is not exempt from its effects, a recently retired Border Patrol chief says.

Former Chief Chris Clem, who is visiting Michigan as part of Americans for Prosperity’s “Secure Borders, Secure America” tour, served more than 27 years and under five presidents as a U.S. border patrol agent. He was promoted to Yuma Sector chief in December 2020, right before President Joe Biden took office.

“I watched what I would say was one of the most secure borders and supportive administrations on border security, to have it completely reversed in a matter of days under this administration. And the numbers tell that story as well. You don’t go from 400,000 arrests to 1.66 million, to 2 million, to 2.2 million, without a policy direction issue,” Clem told The Center Square.

Biden announced Tuesday an immigration amnesty program that would expand DACA protections and accelerate the pathway to citizenship for those who enter the country illegally and are married to a U.S. citizen for more than 10 years, The Center Square reported.

Clem said he’s concerned the measure is more about gaining political points and that it will send the wrong message to migrants.

“I understand that we want to protect the family situation, but we also have to realize there is already a law in place to do this,” Clem said. “[Biden’s proposed program] will encourage more people to come over, because it was under President Obama and DACA that we started seeing a large number of family units and unaccompanied children coming…I’ve seen that play out.”

Total migrant encounters at the southern border have surpassed 9.57 million since Biden took office, according to the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Clem said Michigan is vulnerable because of its position along the northern border, and its high rates of human trafficking activity. It also has a large immigrant population, which is a good thing, Clem said, but also tends to attract people who enter the country illegally.

Clem emphasized that it’s not just the 1.5 million illegal entry attempts that are concerning, but the number of people who have succeeded entering the country illegally and are now unaccounted for.

“There are approximately 1.8 million known ‘got-aways’ that have entered since this administration has taken over–that’s somebody who has been detected, we saw them, we tracked them, but we never could arrest them. So we have no idea who those people are,” Clem said.

The situation has sparked concerns among officials about possible terrorist attacks, leading Republican senators to call for a border terrorism hearing, The Center Square previously reported. Clem said he doesn’t normally talk about hypotheticals, but grants that these fears are statistically reasonable.

“The reality is that we have caught over 300 people on the Terrorist Screening Database in the last three and a half years. There were just recently eight Tajikistani nationals who have ISIS-K ties, that entered illegally and were released…So it’s not something that’s made up, it’s not some conspiracy that terrorists are coming across the border…When you’re looking at the number of criminals we’re encountering, the amount of gang members we’re encountering, and the people on the watchlists, statistically speaking we know that they’re going to be in that group of got-aways,” Clem said.

Clem believes the solution is fourfold:

* Secure the border by expanding walls, forts and technology.

* The immigration system should attract the “best and brightest” people who can contribute to America in local, meaningful ways.

* The administration must articulate and enforce clear, predictable rules and pathways into the United States; this will encourage people to take the legal route and impose consequences on the people who are exploiting the system.

* The Department of Homeland Security needs to greatly increase transparency.

“The numbers and the stories that we get are not what is truly happening. And I understand how politics works – I was in this world for a long time – but it’s not fair to the American people to not have an understanding of who and what is coming into the United States and why,” Clem said.

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