Yesterday we reported that the Trump administration would be dumping thousands of illegal migrants in Florida due to overcrowding at the border.
Now, we learn that San Diego will receive hundreds of migrant families from South Texas for processing, as the agency struggles to keep up with large numbers of Central Americans who have flooded into the country. The agency said that it was also considering distributing apprehended border-crossers to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York, according to the Globe and Mail.
Flights from Texas' Rio Grande Valley to San Diego were slated to begin on Friday - continuing three times a week indefinitely. Each flight will carry 120 - 135 people, according to the Border Patrol's interim San Diego sector chief, Douglas Harrison. Conservatively, that means at least 1,440 migrants per month, or 17,280 annually.
"We don’t have an end date," said Harrison. "This is a contingency operation. We’ve got to give the people in Rio Grande Valley some relief."
Plans to fly from Rio Grande Valley to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo were preliminary, Harrison said. Authorities were researching available airports and the ability for non-profit groups to provide temporary assistance.
Already, U.S. authorities are moving four buses a day from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) away. There is also a daily flight contracted through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Del Rio, Texas, about 275 miles away (440 kilometres) away.
Agents in the Rio Grande Valley will collect biographical information and do a medical screening before sending migrants to San Diego on flights contracted by ICE, Harrison said. Migrants will go from San Diego International Airport to a Border Patrol station, where they will be fingerprinted, interviewed and screened again for medical problems. Processing at the station typically takes hours. -Globe and Mail
ICE will decide whether to detain or release the families in San Diego. It has been longstanding practice to quickly release them into the community with notices to appear in immigration court.
San Diego's Rapid Response Network - a coalition of civic and religious groups that help asylum-seekers with temporary shelter - will undoubtedly come under further strain. The network said that it would shelter migrants who are flown in from Texas, and that the influx of new migrants "underscores the urgent need for a permanent, long-term migrant shelter in San Diego."
Short flights cost the federal government about $6,000 each, officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear how much longer flights cost.
Border Patrol agents do some processing remotely by videoconference, but Harrison said stations in the Rio Grande Valley had run out of room even to do that. San Diego, he said, had room to hold migrants for up to 72 hours and staff to process them, which stations on the northern border lack. -Globe and Mail
Arrests at the border have nearly tripled the number from last year - reaching 98,977 in April. Around 70% were families or children traveling alone - however in March, former Homeland Security Chief Kristjen Nielsen said that border smugglers are using "child recycling rings" to thwart US Customs and Border Protection.
"We’ve broken up child recycling rings — if you can believe it — in the last couple of months, which is where smugglers pick up a child, they give it to adults to present themselves as a family once they get over — because, as you know, we can only hold families for 20 days — they send the child back and bring the child back with another family. Another fake family," Nielsen told Fox News's Tucker Carlson.
The Rio Grande Valley is the most busy corridor for border crossings, followed by El Paso, Texas. The Border Patrol reports that it's detaining around 8,000 people at a time in the Rio Grande Valley - double its maximum capacity. On Friday, the agency said that it would open four new temporary structures that will have generators, lighting and air conditioning.