McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Near an international bridge in South Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents have released about 150 undocumented migrants without the formal immigration court documents that are normally issued due to overcrowding at a migrant processing tent facility near Donna, Texas, a lawmaker who represents the area told Border Report.
The migrants — adults and children labeled by federal officials as “family units” — were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents during the weekend near the banks of the Rio Grande south of the town of Mission in U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s district.
“Over the weekend at Anzalduas area by the 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,” Cuellar told Border Report via phone on Monday.
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.”U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas
Cuellar said that none of the migrants released were unaccompanied minors, and all released were given “biometrics 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,” said Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
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.
“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,” according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
“There is no change in policy: the border remains closed. Families and single adults are being expelled under Title 42 and should not attempt to cross illegally. If Mexico does not have capacity to immediately receive an expelled family – and we are working with our partners in Mexico to increase their capacity – the family is tested and quarantined as needed and placed in immigration proceedings to commence its removal from the United States,” the DHS statement said.
DHS has been criticized for overcrowding at its processing facilities and detention centers, and for a lack of shelters to house unaccompanied migrant minors.
Tae Johnson, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — which is the federal agency in charge of the detention of undocumented migrants who are not unaccompanied children — said the agency has signed an $86.9 million short-term contract with the nonprofit division of Endeavors to provide an additional “1,239 beds and other necessary services” including “a comprehensive health assessment that includes COVID-19 testing.”
“Our border is not open. The majority of individuals continue to be expelled under the Centers for Disease Control’s public health authority,” Johnson said in a statement.
Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings of the RGV Sector said his agents apprehended over 2,000 migrants on Thursday, sending the total number of March apprehensions in the sector over 34,000.
Cuellar says the solution is to stop migrants from coming north by working with them to help them claim asylum in their home countries in Central America. Most migrants coming through South Texas are from what is called the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The NTA documents Border Patrol agents give migrants — which legally paroles them and allows them to enter the interior of the United States — do not always have a court date listed, but do indicate a location city where the migrant is to appear at immigration court in the upcoming future.
“I’m hoping that the administration would do more to get these kids and family units to ask for asylum in their countries before they cross over,” Cuellar said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.