A growing number of immigrant families crossing the border in recent weeks has resulted in overcrowding at border patrol posts, and many of those families will now be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, according to two senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security.
From there, families will either be released with ankle monitors and a court date to present their asylum claims, or put on flights to be promptly deported, officials said.
On Saturday, border patrol processing facilities were holding migrants 585% above capacity. In the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest area for border crossings, there were 6,671 immigrants held in facilities for 965 people, according to one of the officials, leading to the spread of Covid-19, other viruses and lice in migrants.
To deal with overcrowding and try to make more room, the border patrol has freed families of undocumented migrants in the United States without a court date or a way to track their whereabouts. More than 50,000 migrants were recently released without a court date and given a date to report to an ICE field office within 60 days, but around 15,000 did not show up, officials said. of DHS.
Now, in an unprecedented move, an agency typically tasked with the detention, enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants, ICE agents will perform health checks, offer Covid vaccines, notify immigrants of their legal rights and connect them with non-governmental organizations that can help them, officials said. Asylum officers will continue to make initial decisions regarding migrant asylum seekers, either at ICE facilities or over the phone, they said.
Spokesmen for ICE, CBP and DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday night.
The Biden administration has come under pressure from both sides of the immigration debate for its handling of families during the pandemic.
Immigration advocacy groups have argued in a lawsuit that Trump-initiated policy known as Title 42 that deports immigrants to Mexico before they can apply for asylum should be lifted for them. families. While Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton recently requested a court order for Title 42 to be more widely applied.
All unaccompanied children, some single adults and the vast majority of families are currently not deported under Title 42, in part because Mexico refuses to take back many families.