March 29 (UPI) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote an "urgent request" to Congress, asking for emergency resources and new powers to deal with a "dire situation" at the border, including the authority to deport unaccompanied minors back to their home countries.
In the four-page letter, Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security is facing "a system-wide meltdown."
"DHS facilities are overflowing, agents and officers are stretched too thin and the magnitude of arriving and detained aliens has increased the risk of life-threatening incidents," she said.
The department is dealing with an influx of migrants not seen in over a decade, she said, adding that last year Homeland Security apprehended between 50,000 and 60,000 migrants a month, for March they are looking at nearly 100,000 migrants.
She is asking for more temporary facilities as the ones currently in use are either at or above capacity and for new authority to more rapidly deport children to their home countries.
"We need temporary processing facilities with full humanitarian and staffing support," Nielsen said.
She said her "greatest concern is for the children" who are arriving in greater number, unaccompanied and often sick.
"DHS seeks authority to return [unaccompanied alien children] to their families and home countries in a safe and orderly manner if they have no legal right to stay," she wrote.
Nielsen also said the department is projecting that it will exceed its current funds despite a recent infusion of money.
She will be working with the budget department to offer further details "but the situation is so dire we want to make notification to you now," she wrote to Congress.
The call to Congress comes on the same day she met with security ministers of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation to better synchronize efforts between the countries to bolster border security, prevent new migrant caravans from forming and address the root cause of migration.
"America shares common cause with the countries of Central America in confronting these challenges," said Nielsen in a statement. "We all want to enforce our laws, ensure a safe and orderly migrant flow, protect our communities, facilitate legal trade and travel, support vulnerable populations, interdict dangerous and illicit drug flow and secure our borders."
Last week Nielsen also told media that Homeland Security facilities were at capacity during a visit to south Texas border.