Head Of Customs and Border Protection Testifies On Immigration Issues The head of Customs and Border Protection testified on Capitol Hill about tear-gassing migrants and family separation. A new poll finds Americans disapprove of President Trump's immigration policies.

Head Of Customs and Border Protection Testifies On Immigration Issues

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Today, as the president fought with Democratic congressional leaders in the Oval Office over a border wall, a top official in charge of border security was on Capitol Hill. The head of Customs and Border Protection testified before senators about last month's use of tear gas against migrants and other contentious issues. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the clash at the Mexican border near Tijuana last month was a dynamic, challenging situation.


KEVIN MCALEENAN: They were assaultive in their behavior. They threw rocks at agents. We had an agent who now has to have surgery for a dislocated patella. He was hit by a rock during this event, and the agents were in challenging spaces.

NAYLOR: But he denied that agents intentionally fired tear gas at children. The top Democrat on the panel, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, confronted McAleenan over the widely circulated photograph of a woman holding a child with another beside her in diapers as a cloud of tear gas billowed in the background.


DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I think that's not a picture or an act that befits this country.

MCALEENAN: I respect that view, Senator. It's very unfortunate that women and children were in the vicinity of this large group that was trying to enter the United States. I don't know that that picture accurately tells the full story of the scope of events.

NAYLOR: McAleenan said it was up to individual agents to determine whether to use tear gas and that the incident is under investigation by an internal use of force review board. He was also asked about the border wall construction. Democrats charged the vast majority of the $1.7 billion Congress has appropriated for improvements to existing fencing and some new barriers remains unspent. McAleenan disputed that.


MCALEENAN: We've built 33 out of 40 miles in fiscal year '17. And when I talk about obligated, that's spent. That's on contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

NAYLOR: The administration wants to build 1,100 miles of new barriers. McAleenan said the system is overwhelmed by the numbers of families and unaccompanied children arriving at the border and that last month, some 30,000 people in family units were arrested, something he said the system was not designed for. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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