Immigration and Customs Officials are expected to release as many as 1,800 migrants from custody in Texas over the next three days, according to shelter officials who work with the agency to house migrants seeking asylum.
Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House, told KVIA-News in El Paso, Texas, that local shelters are overwhelmed and may not be able to handle the influx of newly released migrants.
ICE officials told DailyMail.com that they couldn’t confirm estimates or provide a number for how many would be released from the El Paso region, as it will be dependent on the number turned over by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Central American immigrants walk between a newly built Bollard-style border fence, left, and the older “legacy” fence after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on February 1, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. The migrants later turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents, seeking political asylum in the United States
‘The current volume of family units crossing the border – combined with limited transportation resources, time restrictions on families in government custody, and finite space at family residential centers – have all contributed to the current state of events,’ ICE officials said in a statement.
‘ICE is releasing families to (non-governmental organizations) that provide assistance with immediate basic needs such as temporary shelter, food, water, clothing and transportation services; however, many of these organizations are overwhelmed due to the ongoing influx of families at the border,’ officials added.
The development follows news earlier this week that the Trump administration will stop detaining immigrant families who cross the border illegally in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas because the volume has surpassed officials’ ability to safely keep them in jails.
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Instead, starting this week, families in that region have been released on their own recognizance with a Notice to Appear in immigration court for deportation or asylum proceedings – a policy known as ‘catch-and-release,’ which Trump has vowed to end.
Department of Homeland Security officers patrol along the border fence separating US and Mexico in the town of El Paso, Texas in this February 2016 file photo
The goal is ‘to mitigate risks to both officer safety and vulnerable populations under these circumstances,’ a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told DailyMail.com.
ICE released roughly 107,000 family members into the U.S. from December 21, 2018 – March 20. After they are released, adult immigrants are typically required to wear ankle monitors to track their location – a policy that doesn’t apply to children.
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Immigration authorities said the agency arrested 34,546 people living in the country illegally in October through December of last year – the first quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, according to Reuters. The number represents a 12 percent drop from the 39,328 people arrested during the same period a year earlier.
‘Our interior arrests have been affected because I have had to redirect’ resources to address the ‘alarming rate’ of arrivals at the border, said Nathalie Asher, executive associate director of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, during a conference call with reporters.
ICE has three family detention centers – including two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania – which can hold thousands of people at any given time.
Under a federal agreement, ICE can detain families with children for up to 20 days.
A majority of the families are fleeing gang violence, poverty and corruption in the Northern Triangle region of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Most have sought asylum in the U.S., saying they would face threats of violence and death if they returned to their home countries.
Salvadoran migrants wait for a transport to arrive after turning themselves into US Border Patrol by border fence under construction in El Paso, Texas on March 19, 2019
The process for seeking asylum often last years and many are ultimately unsuccessful. Some immigrants are allowed to live in the U.S. while awaiting their fate in court while others spend the time in detention centers.
Last year Trump sought to stem the tide of families coming across the border by implementing a controversial zero-tolerance policy that led to thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents while both were detained for the misdemeanor of crossing the border illegally.
The actions sparked massive public outrage and multiple federal lawsuits, leading to Trump ending the policy through an executive order on June 20, 2018.
A federal judge also ordered the administration to reunite families – a slow process that is ongoing and hampered by many parents having been deported without their children.
More recently, the administration has begun to return some Central American migrants back to Mexico until a judge decides their case.
A mother and her son are given arm bands after turning themselves into US Border Patrol agents to claim asylum after crossing the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on March 19, 2019