Over the past month, detention facilities in Texas overflowed with
migrants for the first time as a large influx of Central Americans
crossed the border into the Rio Grande Valley, said Andy Adame, a
U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson, Arizona.
“We have enough manpower, it’s due to detention space,” Adame said
in explaining why the immigrants, mostly families with young
children, were sent to Arizona.
Many Republicans in Congress and some state lawmakers say the
federal government is not doing enough to secure the U.S. southern
border, while a number of groups push for policy reform to allow the
roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country to obtain
a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Many people who cross the border illegally from Mexico are quickly
returned by the U.S. Border Patrol, but those from Central America
and other regions are supposed to be transferred to U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so they can be flown home.
The 400 migrants who crossed into Texas were transferred into the
custody of ICE and released, dropped off at bus stops in Tucson and
Phoenix, according to that agency.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the migrants will be
required to report within 15 days to an agency office near where
they were dropped off, and their cases will then be handled based on
immigration enforcement priorities.
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Federal officials under President Barack Obama have focused their
immigration enforcement priorities on turning back unauthorized
immigrants stopped in border regions and deporting others outside of
those areas who are convicted of crimes.
On Tuesday, Obama asked his administration to hold off on making
changes to deportation policy until the end of the summer in order
to allow Congress time to pass immigration legislation.
Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, which calls for restrictions on immigration, said the
released migrants will likely slip away and avoid deportation if
they do not commit any crime.
"Essentially, they have gotten successfully into the country and
it's unlikely that they're going to leave,” Mehlman said.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Writing by Alex
Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Grant McCool)
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