Illegal Migrants Being Released Into US Without Court Notice - Or Any Paperwork at All
Overwhelmed and unprepared, U.S. authorities are releasing migrant families on the Mexican border without notices to appear in immigration court and sometimes without any paperwork at all.
The rapid releases ease pressure on the Border Patrol and its badly overcrowded holding facilities but shift work to Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, the agency that enforces immigration laws within the United States.
Families are released with booking records; only parents are photographed and fingerprinted.
The Border Patrol began the practice two weeks ago in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which has seen the biggest increase in the number of migrant families and unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border.
The agency recently added instructions to report to an ICE office within 60 days to adults’ booking documents.
But some got no documents at all, including dozens at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in the Texas border city of Mission, where about 100 migrants released by U.S. authorities had been arriving each night to sleep on mats in classrooms in a shuttered elementary school.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol, said it stopped issuing court notices in some cases because preparing even one of the documents often takes hours.
The agency didn’t answer questions about how many migrants have been released without court notices or without documents at all.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of Rio Grande Valley, knows of 10 to 15 families released without any paperwork since last week, an issue that has cropped up before when there are large increases in new arrivals.
“It’s a problem, it’s a situation we need to resolve, to make sure we follow up,” she said.
Migrants will be issued notices to appear in court at their 60-day check-ins with ICE, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It is unclear how widespread the practice has been, but it is very common in Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.
Preparing a court appearance notice can take an hour to 90 minutes, according to Chris Cabrera, spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents agents.
A surge in the number of people crossing the border illegally, especially children traveling alone and families, has filled up federal holding facilities. The U.S. has been releasing families with children 6 and under and expelling families with older children.
Initially, U.S. authorities didn’t even require the ICE check-in when it began releasing families without court notices over the past two weeks. But they shifted course.
Charlene D’Cruz, director of Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon legal aid program, said ICE could potentially issue a notice to appear in court, expel people from the country or do nothing.
“There are so many different options, and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” D’Cruz said.
The immigration courts, with a backlog of 1.3 million cases, are ill-prepared for a large increase in new asylum claims.
At the shelter in Mission, a city of about 85,000 people bordering Mexico, migrants who have booking records closely guarded them. Along with their proof of a COVID-19 test, the documents are kept in large yellow envelopes that say, “Please help me. I do not speak English.”
Information on the booking form is sparse: name, nationality, gender, date of birth.
Jose Sansario waited at the shelter for a week after coming from Guatemala with his wife, Kimberly, and their 3-year-old daughter. They had difficulty finding flights to Richmond, Virginia, their final destination.
They left their homeland in early March because a gang threatened to kill him if he didn’t hand over money from his auto repair business. He said he heard the Biden administration was friendly to immigrants.
“We didn’t know what was true, but we had faith — faith that God would help us and that faith would allow us in,” Sansario said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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