FOX 9's Adam Klepp sat down with Chief Chris Clem to discuss border issues in Yuma
YUMA, Ariz. (KECY, KYMA) - October is the first month of the new fiscal year for Customs and Border Protection.
But much on the ground remains the same, as hundreds of migrants gave themselves up to Border Patrol for a chance to seek asylum in the United States early Thursday morning.
Over 310 thousand apprehensions were made by Yuma Sector agents in the Fiscal Year 2022 according to Chief Patrol Officer Chris Clem, a record in the border sector.
In the new year, migrants say they knew to cross here after hearing from asylum seekers that have come before them.
“My friends said I could come here and get into the country," Peruvian asylum seeker Carlos Baldivia said.
Chief Clem says the nightly routine of apprehensions and processing makes their border security mission more difficult.
“Our agents should be out there looking for people smuggling, trafficking narcotics, other contraband, and truly bad actors,” Clem said.
Even with the record numbers, Chief Clem says his sector is in a better situation now than they were last year.
Thanks in part to efforts by Arizona's U.S. Senators to get more technology to the border, and Governor Doug Ducey sending the state's National Guard to Yuma, which is serving in an administrative role.
“We’ve been able to put 30 to 40 percent of our resources in terms of agents back out to the border, compared to what we were doing 6 months ago or last year,” Clem said.
The historic year also came with criticism of Border Patrol policies.
Chief Clem says he is working to correct misunderstandings, but also added his agents are operating within CBP policy.
“They have entered the country illegally and are under arrest. We have policies and procedures that support what we are doing,” Clem said. "We certainly recognize there are some sensitivities here and investigations going on."
Chief Clem also says migrant deaths in the Yuma Sector are also on the rise by 170%, a majority happening in the east desert.
He maintains it is bad actors causing the increase in desert rescues and deaths, not Title 42, which has closed ports of entry to most asylum seekers.
“It is purely profit making, and exploration of people leading to those deaths out there in the desert,” Clem said.
As for the over 250 thousand migrants that were processed by the Yuma Sector this year Chief Clem says they’re thoroughly screened before those releases take place, and that Yumans should feel safe in their community.
“Our criminal prosecutions are up 250% from last year, we are looking out for anything that’s an anomaly and will take additional action,” Clem said.
With the rise in border deaths, Chief Clem says his agents see a lot on a daily basis and adds assaults against Yuma Border Patrol are also on the rise.
He says this fiscal year the sector is expanding mental health resources for agents.
"They can talk to any one of us, and get help outside the agency before they allow the stresses of life and this job to put them at risk at saying something wrong or doing something wrong," Clem said. "This is one big Border Patrol family, and one Yuma County region family.”
For now, Chief Clem says in the first week of October numbers have not changed one way or the other.
He anticipates apprehensions to stay high with no likely immediate changes to federal border policy coming soon.
Meaning migrants will continue showing up at Yuma's border seeking a better life.
“I plan on going to Miami and working for my family,” Baldivia said.
Check out the full interview with Sector Chief Chris Clem below.