Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen convened an emergency conference call with members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet Tuesday evening to discuss migration at the southern border, according to a participant on the call.
“We are going to treat it as if we have been hit by a Cat 5 hurricane,” Nielsen said on the call, the participant told CNN.
There are “900,000 people this year coming without any legal right to stay,” she added, the source noted.
Nielsen told Cabinet members that Homeland Security is establishing an “emergency operations cell” as is done during a hurricane with daily video teleconferences and operational updates, the source said.
She also informed call participants she has named Manuel Padilla, the former chief of Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, as a crisis coordinator to support DHS and other agencies’ border response effort. Nielsen said Padilla will come back to Washington to manage the operational effort.
Nielsen confirmed the announcement in a news release, saying that Padilla will lead the border emergency cell effectively immediately to “improve information sharing and coordinate interagency support to (Customs and Border Protection) and (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) efforts to bring the situation under control.”
Padilla is not the “border or immigration czar” the White House is considering to oversee the administration’s efforts on the southern border.
Participants on Tuesday’s call with Nielsen included Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
The Cabinet conference call and Padilla’s appointment are the latest efforts by Nielsen to step up the administration’s response to the surge in migrants crossing the southern US border.
On Monday, Nielsen left bilateral security meetings with European officials early and bowed out of the G7 Interior Ministers’ Meeting in Paris to head back to Washington and continue managing the situation at the southern border, CNN reported.
She also directed CBP to speed up its planned surge of at least 750 officers to assist Border Patrol along areas of the southern border. Nielsen ordered that CBP immediately expand Homeland Security’s policy of returning asylum-seekers to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
All of this comes as President Donald Trump weighs shutting down the southern border, threatening to do so if Mexico does not begin apprehending more undocumented migrants from coming into the US.
Trump has already said the US is cutting off aid to the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, otherwise known as the Northern Triangle.