Eric Gay / AP
The US Border Patrol releases asylum seeker migrants who were recently apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, without detaining them, because the authorities say the detention centers are overcrowded.
The Border Patrol released 50 migrants Tuesday instead of handing them over to US immigration and customs services to detain them. 200 others will have been released on Wednesday, a customs officer and border protection official told NPR.
This decision is another apparent return of the government to the practice that President Trump described as "catch and release" and promised to end his office when he was running for president. Some migrants' rights advocates say the publication seems intended to reinforce the administration's claims of a border crisis.
However, customs and border protection officials said their main concern was security in overcrowded government detention centers. Released migrants will be ordered to appear later in court hearings to determine their admissibility to asylum. Those who are not eligible risk deportation.
"To mitigate security risks for officers and vulnerable populations in these circumstances, and because of the limited number of beds, CBP will begin releasing RGV families with a Notice of Appearance / Personal Commitment (NCR). The RGV sector will continue to coordinate with local and local stakeholders and non-governmental organizations as these temporary measures are in place, "said a senior official of CBP, the US Border Patrol's parent agency in a statement.
The timing of the announcement is "suspicious," according to Elizabeth Cabazos, a member of Angry Tias and Abuelas, a group of volunteers who helps migrants in McAllen, Texas.
"We may have been too bold in stating that there was no security crisis, that everything was fine and that, perhaps to save face, they were trying to create a crisis and that they said, oh yeah, try this, "Cabazos told NPR. Joel Rose.
This is not the first time that human rights activists suggest that the Trump administration is "preparing" a border crisis by periodically releasing large numbers of migrants as evidence of flooding the border requiring a significant investment personnel, technology and project boundary wall.
Government officials are sensitive to this accusation. Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen described the border situation as "almost system-wide crisis."
"I want to cut politics short and say loud and clear: there is no" fabricated "crisis at our southern border," said Nielsen at a conference on national security and security. cyber-homeland in Washington, DC "There is a real humanitarian conflict and security catastrophe."
According to CBP data, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is the hotspot for apprehending the families of migrants crossing the border between the points of entry. So far this fiscal year, which began in October, more than 58,000 migrants belonging to family units have been captured, or about 40% of those apprehended on the southern border. The El Paso sector comes second with more than 36,000 migrants intercepted.
Despite the current peak, apprehensions on the southwestern border are at historically low levels. During fiscal year 2018, 396,579 people were apprehended. During the 2000 fiscal year, more than 1.6 million people were apprehended.
The focus is on the Rio Grande Valley while Nielsen is due to go there on Thursday. His visit marks the third time since October 2018 that his presence at the border was preceded by the release of migrants from a border community.
"In October, more than 700 people were released in Yuma, Arizona, just days before Nielsen testified before the Senate on Capitol Hill," said Joel Rose of NPR. When Republican Senator Jon Kyl, of Arizona, said local aid groups were busy with released migrants, Nielsen responded that Congress needed to amend the law requiring children to be detained less than 20 days and allow families to be detained. together until they are removed.
A few days later, Nielsen was at the border near Calexico, California, praising the border wall project.
In late December, a few days before Christmas, ICE officials released up to 800 hundred migrants in four days in downtown El Paso, Texas, without alerting local aid organizations. who rushed to help them with food, shelter and transportation.
A few days later, Nielsen was back at the border following the deaths of two children in the custody of the United States, an event that prompted the administration to ask for improved conditions in detention centers. .
Some advocates believe that Nielsen's model of migrant relocation and border visits is intentional.
"They wanted to create the conditions for a story to appear as a crisis," said Fernando Garcia, founding director of the Border Network for Human Rights of El Paso.
There is no doubt that the impressive number of migrant families is putting the system to the test, said former acting director of ICE under President Barack Obama, John Sandweg.
The administration must treat the flow of migrants as a humanitarian crisis, not just a threat to national security, said Sandweg, now a founding partner of Frontier Solutions, a law firm specializing in human rights law. 39; immigration.
"These numbers will overwhelm the system quite quickly, but I think this highlights the fundamental problem because we have not invested in the system itself," Sandweg told NPR.