Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Thursday, July 18, said the number of family separations at the border has dropped, and that separation happens only for compelling reasons.

Amid outcries over the handling of illegal migrants and the Trump administration’s endeavor this week to stop asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, top Trump administration official McAleenan testified before the House Oversight Committee.

McAleenan said that over 90 percent of them crossed illegally between ports of entry and crunched the numbers. “Over 450,000 of these apprehensions and encounters were members of family units and over 80,000 were unaccompanied children,” said McAleenan.

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The homeland security chief said that over 300,000 children have entered our custody since Oct. 1 last year, which is about “as many as the total apprehensions in fiscal year [20]17.”

Under the revised policy, there are fewer separations.

“Fewer than 1,000 juveniles have been separated from their parents crossing the border this fiscal year. That’s with 450,000 crossings of family units,” said McAleenan.

When lawmakers questioned him about the policy that led to the separation of children from their families, McAleenan replied, “This is carefully governed by policy and by court order that needs to have a criminal background or issue, as you referenced potential communicable disease or medical emergency or risk of abuse or neglect from the parent to the child.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan swearing into the committee on Thursday before speaking on child separation issues at the southern border, July 18, 2019. (Screenshot/AP Video)

The acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security reiterated that criminal history is a factor leading to separation, “if there’s an extraditable warrant or a prosecution for another offense.”

A supervisor carefully manages each case and “in the interests of the child,” said McAleenan.

Currently, the influx and custody situation remain beyond crisis levels. “We are still seeing 2,500 crossings a day, mostly families,” said McAleenan.

To reduce these numbers, McAleenan said that the Trump administration is adopting “a multifaceted strategy that addresses the regional flows of migration at their source by expanding our partnership efforts with Central American governments to attack criminal organizations and improve security while fostering economic development and growth.”

However, he added that a “durable solution” for the border crisis lies with the U.S. Congress—in making “targeted changes to our immigration laws that we need to enhance the integrity of our immigration system and eliminate the gaps in our legal framework that incentivize families and children to take this dangerous journey.”

McAleenan assured that separations of parents/guardians and the children are rare and are undertaken in the best interest and safety of welfare of the child, under the current practice administrated by both executive and court orders along with operational guidance.

During the end of the session, McAleenan was compelled to address the “current public rhetoric” on border security and humanitarian crisis, saying that provocative criticisms of border patrols and immigration staff were “unwarranted and damaging.”

McAleenan admonished that “the demonization of law enforcement professionals, U.S. Border Patrol agents, CBP and ICE officers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, from all faiths, and callings, who have chosen a career about protecting others, must stop.”