In a bleak announcement to reporters, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Acting Director Ron Vitiello explained why hundreds of thousands of migrants have been released into the United States instead of being turned over by Border Patrol.
Vitiello spoke to reporters outside the Border Security Expo in San Antonio Tuesday morning to explain how limited resources for agencies like ICE result in families being released into the United States.
— ICE (@ICEgov) March 26, 2019
According to a report by the San Antonio Express-News, Vitiello said as many as 108,500 migrants were directly released into the United States after being detained by Border Patrol agents over the last 90 days.
Typically, Border Patrol would apprehend an undocumented person and turn them over to ICE detention facilities to be held until a judge can hear their immigration case. Vitiello explained that overcrowding in ICE facilities has shattered that system, forcing Border Patrol agents to release migrants with an order to return to face the judge — making it difficult to ensure that happens.
“The numbers of people coming to the border, children with their families or children coming alone, is overwhelming the entire system,” Vitiello told reporters.
Vitiello also explained that he expects the flow of migrants to continue, making the overcrowding issue even worse. Right now, Border Patrol is directly releasing migrants instead of turning them over to ICE, but the acting director feared that ICE may have to start releasing from their own facilities.
“CBP [Customs and Border Protection] is doing some of their own releases and as the flow continues, we [ICE] may have to start doing that,” Vitiello said.
While the overburdened facilities for ICE paint a grim border security picture, Vitiello also pointed to some of the successes his agency has seen over the past few months.
During his speech, Vitiello announced that ICE managed to arrest 3,600 MS-13 gang members and confiscate around 750 guns in the 2018 financial year. Additionally, ICE made 11,400 drug-related arrests and confiscated more than one million pounds of narcotics.
He also noted that he is optimistic about the future of the agency under President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Looking ahead, the men and women of ICE will continue to do our sworn duty to enforce the law, and I am encouraged by the support we’ve seen from this administration, allowing us to do our jobs more effectively as federal law enforcement officers.”
The Trump administration has made securing the border a top priority. On Monday night, the Pentagon announced that $1 billion was being transferred to continue construction on the Southern border wall, as IJR previously reported.