The Southern border. Photo: David Peinado/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Migrants are crossing the Southern border in record numbers because they know they'll be released in the U.S. even if they don’t have a valid asylum claim, acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan told "60 Minutes" Sunday.

What he's saying: McAleenan told CBS journalist Sharyn Alfonsi smugglers know families and unaccompanied children would be allowed to stay now, regardless of their status, and they're "advertising that directly in their hometowns." "[O]ur court system is so backlogged, and our laws prevent effective repatriation, even if there's no right to stay in the U.S," he said.

Details: CBS journalist Sharyn Alfonsi traveled to the border with McAleenan to find out how McAleenan how to plans manage the border situation, with 100,000 migrants detained last month alone.

  • Alfonsi asked McAleenan how he could follow President Trump's tough immigration stance while working with work a Congress "that has absolutely no incentive to get anything done in this area before the election." McAleenan said he believes you can be tough and compassionate at the same time.
"I'm gonna do what I've always done –give good law enforcement operational, and policy advice to lawmakers and to policy makers. And that's my intent. I think the ground has shifted in this discussion over the past month."

The big picture: Trump has directed top officials to execute the most aggressive changes in immigration policy since his inauguration, Axios' Jonathan Swan notes. An acceleration in deportations is critical to this new approach. McAleenan will play a key role in this.

The backdrop: McAleenan was previously responsible as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the enforcement of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance policy," which resulted in the separation of children from parents. The Trump administration said this month it could take 2 years for federal officials to identify the thousands of children most likely separated.

  • McAleenan told Alfonsi he had regrets about the way the policy was carried out.

Go deeper: Trump on his future DHS head Kevin McAleenan: "He's an Obama guy!"

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