Congressman: San Antonio received nearly half the migrants released by ICE
Immigration authorities have released 51,500 migrants in San Antonio this year, 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.
Facing a surge in border apprehensions that reached 100,000 this month, 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.
Homeland Security officials say that the influx of migrants has put ICE’s facilities at a breaking point. ICE has a 150 person-per-day processing capacity, Cuellar said at the press conference Friday morning.
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.
While the number of apprehensions is lower than in the early 2000s, the number of Central Americans and families seeking asylum has skyrocketed — 73 percent of migrants come from Central America now, compared to 90 percent coming from Mexico in 2006.
The federal government has been grappling with how to process and detain migrants of this new population.
ICE typically drops the immigrants off at the bus station downtown, where Catholic Charities and the Interfaith Welcome Coalition volunteers offer them food and water, and help them arrange for bus tickets to their final destinations. Catholic Charities has said it often gets little to no notice of the releases.
Earlier this month, immigration officials said they would begin releasing migrants with a court date in the Rio Grande Valley sector, and later in the Del Rio sector, because ICE detention facilities were out of space.
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 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.
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