The quick releases, according to a report released Thursday by the Associated Press, ease pressure on the border patrol and its heavily overcrowded detention facilities.
The report comes as the United States sees an increase in the number of people crossing the border, especially families and children traveling alone. Raul Ortiz, deputy head of the U.S. border patrol, told reporters on Tuesday that more than a million migrants are expected to make their way to the southern U.S. border this year, straining the country’s capacity.
The growing number of migrants has put pressure on the administration of US President Joe Biden, who took office in January on a promise to reform the country’s immigration system and remove “inhumane” border policies put in place by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden’s Republican rivals blasted Biden’s changes, saying they had signaled migrants they can now come to the United States.
“The Biden administration’s open border policies have created an open season for human traffickers, for drug traffickers, for cartels and gangs,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, at a press conference Thursday.
“These criminals prey on women and children, exposing them to abuse and terror because the federal government does not act to address these dangers,” he said.
Biden administration officials urged migrants not to come, saying the United States needed more time to put in place more efficient processing procedures and officials had deported most of the migrants under a provision related to the pandemic. But a policy allowing children traveling alone without a parent to enter the United States and reunite with a parent has also sparked controversy.
On Tuesday evening, grainy black-and-white security footage showed two Ecuadorian girls, aged three and five, fell over a border wall in US territory by two men suspected of being human smugglers. Overcrowding and the living conditions of the facilities where the children are housed have also drawn attention.
The AP report found tense border officials have freed families with children aged six and under in the United States. Border patrol, according to the report, began the unusual practice last week in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which has seen the largest increase in the number of migrant families and unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
Last week, the agency added instructions for showing up to an ICE office within 60 days on adult booking documents. But some have not received any documents, including dozens at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Texas border town of Mission, where around 100 migrants freed by US authorities arrived each night to sleep on mats. in the classrooms of a closed primary school.
Carlos Enrique Linga, 27, waited at the shelter for a week undocumented with his five-year-old daughter, hoping to join a friend in Tennessee. His wife is still in Guatemala with their two-year-old twin daughters and a three-month-old child.
Linga was not willing to leave the shelter until he received documents and asked for help from Catholic charities in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We hope they can help us with our papers so that we can move forward, work and send [money] to my family, ”said Linga, whose home in Guatemala was destroyed by storms in November. “The church has told us that there are sometimes mistakes. Because there are so many people, they forget.
Customs and Border Protection, which oversees border patrol, said it had stopped issuing court notices in some cases because preparing just one of the documents often took hours.
Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley, knows 10 to 15 families released without paperwork since last week, a problem that has arisen before when there is a surge in new arrivals.
“It’s a problem, it’s a situation that we have to resolve, to follow up,” she said.
Jose Sansario waited at the Mission shelter for a week after arriving from Guatemala with his wife, Kimberly, and their three-year-old daughter, Genesee.
They left their home country at the beginning of March because a gang threatened to kill him if he did not give him the money from his auto repair business. He said he had heard that the Biden administration was friendly with immigrants.
“We didn’t know what was true, but we had faith – faith that God would help us and that faith would allow us to come in,” Sansario said.