Texas border city to issue asylum-seekers temporary photo IDs for air travel


'We're doing city ID cards ... to try and get them on the airplane," mayor said

A man and woman who were dropped off by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in downtown McAllen, Texas, on Feb. 22, 2021, are escorted by a police officer to the bus station for travel. Some migrants trying to leave South Texas via airplanes have been denied travel because they don’t have photo IDs. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — With hundreds of asylum-seekers being released daily into South Texas, the mayor of McAllen said some are not being allowed on airplanes because they lack proper photo IDs. The migrants are then stuck in the city’s Humanitarian Respite Center sometimes for extra nights.

To rectify that problem, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling told Border Report on Tuesday afternoon that city officials are in the process of starting to issue photo identification cards to the migrants who need them.

“Some people can fly but can’t get on because of TSA because they don’t have identification cards with their picture on it,” Darling said. “We’re doing city ID cards … to try and get them on the airplane.”

Darling said he was meeting with the city’s attorney on Tuesday afternoon and they were trying to find a way to issue temporary IDs linked to the migrants’ Notice to Appear documents. The NTA documents are issued by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials and allow the migrants to travel north of the immigration checkpoints with the promise that they will appear at any and all upcoming U.S. immigration hearings in whatever city they are living.

“We just want to get them on the plane and hopefully they don’t need it afterwards so we’re trying to figure out how to limit that,” Darling said. “We’re just trying to accommodate that.”

For the past three weeks, Border Patrol agents have been processing and releasing hundreds of asylum-seekers who illegally cross the Rio Grande into South Texas. This includes those traveling with young “tender-age” children under age 7, or those with medical conditions.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent is seen dropping off a family of migrants on Feb. 22, 2021, at the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in downtown McAllen, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

The Humanitarian Respite Center, which sat nearly empty for several months after the Trump administration in 2019 forced asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico, suddenly has been filled with migrants since the end of January after the Biden administration announced sweeping changes to immigration policies.

That, coupled with a freak arctic winter storm last week, caused numbers at the center to surge to about 800 people. Buses stopped moving for a few days due to icy roads and those who tried to fly out were met with these new travel restrictions, Darling said.

“We didn’t expect the numbers we’ve gotten from Border Patrol and no buses were going,” Darling said.

The mayor said he has a conference call scheduled for Wednesday with White House officials regarding the surge in asylum-seekers and how the city is handling the influx, and he said he plans to mention the ID cards on the call.

Border Report has reached out to officials with the Transportation Security Administration and CBP and this story will be updated if more information is received.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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