On Monday, a Democratic representative whose district abuts the southern border said roughly 150 migrants in the country illegally were released sans documents to appear in immigration court.
Essentially, then, these individuals would have to hold themselves accountable for appearing in immigration court. While Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas said the move was “unprecedented,” that number was reasonably small and the border crisis was large enough to safely ignore it in the news cycle.
Later in the week, Cuellar said the number was a little higher than that — more like 2,000.
“I thought it was 150 people that they have released without a Notice to Appear, but it actually is getting now closer to 2,000 people they released,” Cuellar told the Washington Examiner.
“I told the person, ‘Repeat it one more time.’ Two thousand. I thought it was bad when it was 150, but it’s now closer to 2,000 people.”
Cuellar, a resident of the border city of Laredo, Texas, has long broken with fellow Democrats on border issues. Fox News noted he urged then-President Barack Obama to visit the southern border during a 2014 immigration crisis and made a similar call upon President Joe Biden last week.
He’s currently much in the news after he released photos to the media from inside an overcrowded Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas.
New photos provided by Rep. Henry Cuellar show CBP temporary overflow facility in Donna, TX.
The images, which Cuellar says were taken over the weekend, offer a glimpse of crowded “pods” holding hundreds of migrants—many unaccompanied minors. https://t.co/VbCwrLhWfB pic.twitter.com/GZQquLh0xS
— ABC News (@ABC) March 22, 2021
Nevertheless, a Notice to Appear is a pretty big deal. It’s the primary legal document holding an illegal alien taken into custody by Border Patrol responsible to appear in court for illegally entering the country — a misdemeanor the first time and a felony every subsequent time. When border facilities are overstressed, individuals can be let out into the community with a Notice to Appear.
However, in a Monday interview with Border Report, Cuellar sounded the alarm about migrants being released without the document.
Cuellar alleged that, in the area by the Anzalduas International Bridge, “there were about 150 folks got released under what we call ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ because Border Patrol says, ‘We just don’t have the space,’ and they got released without even a Notice To Appear, which is, in my opinion, unprecedented that you’re going to release somebody and hope that they show up without a court date.”
The individuals, identified as “family units” by Cuellar, were released after they were given “biometrics [tests] to make sure that any adults there did not have criminal records.”
“I’m not blaming Border Patrol but to hear they had no choice tells you how critical the situation is down at the border,” Cuellar said.
While Customs and Border Patrol didn’t necessarily say individuals had been let into the United States without a Notice to Appear, “CBP officials confirmed to Border Report they have discretion while in the field to assess each and every apprehension individually and that operational policy allows them to sometimes deviate from normal processes depending upon the circumstances,” the outlet reported.
“In some cases, families are placed in removal proceedings further along in the release process rather than while they are at the Border Patrol station. All families, however, are screened at the border patrol station, including the collection of biographical and biometric information and criminal and national security records checks,” a statement from the Department of Homeland Security read.
In his interview with the Examiner, Cuellar said Border Patrol got approval from the proper channels to allow the 2,000 illegal aliens in without a Notice to Appear; it wasn’t just an oversight or someone going rogue.
“More and more people are coming every day. And [Health and Human Services] is not, you know, doesn’t have the space.”
Customs and Border Protection didn’t respond to the Examiner’s request for comment. However, if the reports are accurate, these are 2,000 people who aren’t logged in the court system. The only reason they’d appear to answer the charge of illegally entering the country is the “hope that they honor the honor system and show up at some time in the future,” Cuellar said.
Even if he’s broken with the Democrats on border security, Cuellar says he isn’t doing it to make Joe Biden look bad. He’s doing it because border security is making Joe Biden look bad.
“I’m a Democrat. I supported Biden. But this will become a political problem,” Cuellar said in a television appearance earlier this week, according to the New York Post.
“As we can see, our Republican colleagues are already turning this into a political weapon.”
On that count, at least, he’s wrong. It may be a political weapon, but whatever wounds the Biden administration receives are entirely self-inflicted.
This is just another example of how the humanitarian disaster they set in motion has unprecedented and ugly consequences, particularly during a pandemic. Every bit of collateral damage that may come from this, they own it.
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