So far this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was forced to release 168,000 migrants into the United States on their own recognizance but statistics show most of them won’t come back.
As IJR previously reported, more migrants have arrived at the southern border in the first half of the financial year 2019 than in all of 2018. This has caused some detention facilities operated by ICE to hit capacity, forcing Border Patrol agents to release migrants into the country with a court order to come back at a later date to have their asylum claim heard.
Once the migrants are released by authorities, there isn’t much the already-overwhelmed ICE agents can do to keep track of migrant families to ensure their compliance with court orders.
Acting chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation branch Nathalie Asher told Congress on Wednesday, “Family units are not appearing in great numbers.”
According to data collected from a pilot program operated by ICE, 87% of migrants released on their own recognizance never show up for their court date.
In April, 100,000 migrants were caught by Border Patrol while trying to sneak into the country by illegally crossing the southern border between points of entry. An additional 10,000 were apprehended and demanded entry without approval from authorities.
Nearly 62,000 families arrived in April — an all-time record. As IJR previously reported, around 1 percent of the populations of both Guatemala and Honduras have migrated to the U.S. That could double by September if new policies are not implemented to deter families from crossing.
Carla Provost, chief of the Border Patrol, told Congress, “[Central American migrants] have received the message loud and clear: Bring a child, you will be released.”
Provost expanded on her claims, noting that smugglers are advertising to recruit families for the journey.
“From interviews that we have done with the families we are apprehending, they are hearing that message loud and clear. They are hearing that from the smugglers, they are hearing that from the media down in the Northern Triangle.”
Asher recommended that Congress approve funding for more judges and ICE prosecutors to help ease the burden of the overworked immigration court system in order to prevent the mass-release of migrant families who are unlikely to return.
It remains unclear if Congress will respond to the calls for new policies and additional funding, despite the chaos at the border.