The day after Christmas, hundreds of immigrants were dropped off onto the streets of Texas by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to a spike in immigrants trying to come across the U.S.-Mexico border and a newer policy on the timeframe of holding family units.
On Wednesday, more than 500 immigrants were released in El Paso, Texas, with over 600 immigrants released in the days prior, according to KVIA-TV.
Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia, a homeless and refugee shelter in El Paso, told KVIA-TV he has been working with ICE to place immigrants in shelters or houses, as he receives 2,000 immigrants a week.
Garcia said the releases are due to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policy that was changed in October which states if ICE has “more people to drop off, then local shelters and agencies can receive and house, then ICE will drop those migrants off in the street.”
According to Fox News, ICE pointed fingers at Congress for their “decades of inaction” and limiting their ability to remove immigrants who had come to the U.S. illegally and how long they can hold immigrant family units.
“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border,” the statement read, according to Fox News. “ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”
Garcia shared with the El Paso Times how he’s “really disappointed” in the mass releases that occurred this week.
“I am really, really disappointed when my government does things like this. The bottom line is you don’t release families with young children to the streets.”
Garcia told the Times that immigrants typically only stay in El Paso for one or two days, however, the holiday season made it difficult for families to find transportation to their destinations in the U.S.
He said he understands that CBP facilities could be overcrowded but doesn’t believe dropping the families off at bus stations is the right thing to do, adding, “The solution can’t be ‘we will release them to the street.'”
This comes after an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy recently died in CBP custody, as IJR Red reported. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen responded by calling it “heartbreaking,” and as a result of the child’s death she’s “directed a series of extraordinary protective measures.”
“Moving forward, all children will receive more thorough hands on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension – whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one.”