Catch and Release, migrants housed under a bridge as officials sound the alarm

We’ve all seen the headlines and heard the news reports about the crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border. The meltdown is real, with agreement from former Obama Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Now a story of illegal aliens being temporarily housed under a bridge has produced a new round of hand-wringing from the open borders crowd.

It sounds draconian, right? Crowds of illegal aliens awaiting processing by the Border Patrol satellite office in El Paso are being temporarily housed under a bridge next to the office. Well, that is only part of the story. The bridge shelter is the sensational part so that leads the reporting. A Washington Post reporter tweeted out a couple of photos from the scene as he promoted his article in the paper.

The article went on to say that the of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol talked about directly releasing the men, women and children because there is simply no room for all of them. They are not detained and processed. They are just set free. They are not tracked and only received a notice to appear in court later. What could go wrong? (WaPo)

Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that for the first time in more than a decade, his agency is “reluctantly” performing direct releases of migrants, meaning they are not turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they are not detained, they are not given ankle bracelets to track their movements and they are allowed to leave with just a notice to appear in court at a later date. Border Patrol stations are crammed full and there is nowhere for them to go.

He said that this is a “negative outcome” but that it is “the only current option we have” because of overcrowding at detention facilities as Central Americans stream to the border knowing they will be able to gain entry with asylum claims.

So, it should not be a surprise that desparate Border Patrol agents processing illegal aliens in a satellite office in El Paso move the people to wait outside under the bridge next to the office. It’s a temporary move for them, though, because as soon as their processsing is completed, they are sent elsewhere. It could be a matter of hours in the temporary shelter or it could be a day, depending on what time the person or family was apprehended. A tent was built to protect them from the elements and there is enough space for them to sleep, if they so choose, though many do not..

Unaccompanied minors are separated out and are not housed with the others under the bridge. They go to another facility. El Paso Sector spokesman Agent Ramiro Cordero spoke with the Texas Tribune about the situation. He explained that though tweets stating the people are held under the bridge for days, not hours, it’s a matter of perception. (Texas Tribune)

So for example, let’s say you get picked up at 6 p.m. and you end up at the river’s edge waiting to be transported for a few hours. Then you end up at that [camp] the next morning maybe at 9 a.m. Then you don’t get processed because there is a bottleneck until the following day. Did you stay there overnight? Yes, you sure did. So a lot is just perspective. The sun went down, it came back up. So for them that’s two days.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar representing from the Laredo, Texas area was briefed by Homeland Security officials and sounded the alarm over the surge at the border.

Immigration authorities have released 51,500 migrants along the South Texas border and in San Antonio since late December, more than in any other city and almost half of all migrants released, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who was briefed by Homeland Security officials.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been releasing thousands of migrants in border cities with notices to appear later in court. Since Dec. 21, ICE has released 117,500 migrants.

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations released 34,500 migrants in El Paso, 20,000 in Phoenix, and 11,500 in San Diego during the same period.

Cuellar confirmed that catch and release of illegal aliens has been the norm since early this month along the Rio Grande Valley and one-third of those released do not show up for their day in court. Frankly, I thought that number would have been higher. Personnel have been moved around to keep up with the chaos.

ICE has also had to shift personnel from other departments to handle the influx. Cuellar said that 330 ICE enforcement and removal operations personnel are on temporary duty status or were resigned from another department to help handle the surge.

Transportation services are also straining to keep up with demand — they can only serve half of the unaccompanied minors projected to require transportation in the fiscal year 2019, according to Cuellar’s Homeland Security briefing.

Another new figure presented by Homeland Security was the percent of released migrants who don’t show up to their court dates. Cuellar said that number was nearly one in three for family units.

Less than 2 percent of undocumented immigrants are in one of ICE’s 200 facilities across the country, he said.

And, one more point as I wrap this up. The Rio Grande Border Patrol Chief said Friday that illegal aliens crossing the border aren’t just poor and desperate people from Mexico and Central America. They are from countries around the world. He named Egypt, Iraq, China, and Bangladesh as examples of those countries. The crisis at the border is real. It is a national security risk as well as a humanitarian crisis. And more people are on the way. ICE and the Border Patrol can’t keep up without additional resources and facilities.