Border Patrol releases migrants to avoid overcrowding – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

The warehouse on a busy but not remarkable strip of auto repair shops and grocery stores attracts little attention from passers-by.

Inside, hundreds of migrants eat, charge phones and use temporary bathrooms and showers. Within a few hours, a security guard escorts them to a gravel pit out front, where commercial buses take them from the remote Texas-town Eagle Pass to San Antonio International Airport for $ 40.

The Border Patrol releases up to 1,000 migrants daily at Mission: Border Hope. The nonprofit group grew from a church and moved to the warehouse in April amid the Biden administration’s rapidly growing practice of releasing migrants on probation, especially those not subject to a pandemic rule that prevents migrants from seeking asylum.

The Border Patrol released more than 207,000 migrants who crossed from Mexico from August to May, including 51,132 in May, an increase of 28% from April, according to court records. In the previous seven months, it released only 11 migrants.

Probation protects migrants from deportation for a certain period of time, but does not provide much else. By law, the Homeland Security Department may release migrants to the United States on probation “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Prisoners can apply for asylum within a year.

The border patrol turned to parole because it lacked storage space, according to court documents. It is a low-key but far-reaching change from President Joe Biden’s first months in office and from his immediate predecessors, Donald Trump and Barack Obama. When agents could not process migrants quickly enough for prosecution last year, thousands fell ill in custody under a bridge in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. In 2019, the cells were so tightly packed that some migrants resorted to standing on toilets.

Migrants released at the warehouse are asked to report to immigration authorities in two months at their final destination in the United States. A handheld device tracks their movements.

“The treatment (by the US authorities) was good compared to other countries,” said Anthony Montilla, 27, from Venezuela. “They did not treat us as if we were thieves.”

He arrived with his family after a journey that included walking through Panama’s infamous Darien Gap, where bandits raped young girls in front of their parents and dead bodies lay on the jungle floor. After the Border Patrol released the family on two months probation, they went to a friend’s home in Washington, DC

Jose Castillo, 43, arrived from Nicaragua with his wife and 14-year-old son after overcoming fears of drowning in the Rio Grande. They were on their way to Miami to stay with a cousin. They say opposition to the Nicaraguan government made them targets for repression.

The day Castillo spent in the custody of the border patrol was “easy,” he said, but he would discourage others from traveling because of the dangers of starving or being kidnapped in Mexico.

Mission: Border Hope, supported by United Methodist Church, operates in an area that now competes with the Rio Grande Valley as the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. Its services are modest compared to groups in other border towns that provide shelter and transportation to an airport.

It began in 2000 serving 25 to 50 migrants a week at a former location, said Valeria Wheeler, the CEO who oversees assembly line efficiency operations.

On the busiest days, volunteers cannot keep up as they register migrants, buy bus tickets and handle other logistics, Wheeler said. A typical day is 500 migrants, but arrivals sometimes reach 1,000.

Boxes of spaghetti sauce, chicken soup and pork and beans are stacked near a makeshift kitchen. Migrants are waiting in clusters of metal benches and plastic chairs. A voice on a loudspeaker provides instructions to persons disembarked in border patrol buses and announces when commercial buses to the airport arrive for ticket passengers.

The facility encourages migrants to leave quickly to make room for others, but about every 10 ends up sleeping on the concrete floor because they have nowhere to go.

“We are not set up to be a shelter,” said Wheeler, a former associate attorney, as she walked through the windowless building, often interrupted by migrants with questions.

Parolee migrants say they were not screened for asylum or even asked why they came to the United States. They receive a stapled package with a blue stamp stating when the probationary period expires.

This is in contrast to many others who are deported without a chance to seek asylum under the Title 42 authority, which denies migrants a shot at asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. A federal judge recently ordered that it remain in force because of the administration’s objections.

Section 42 has been used unevenly, greatly affecting migrants from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because Mexico has agreed to take them back.

The head of the Border Patrol’s parent agency says migrants selected for parole have their criminal history checked and generally arrive at families with an address where they want to live in the United States.

“We try to be wise about it, recognizing that there are people who have been carefully examined but who are at much lower risk and who would make sense to deal differently with others,” said Chris Magnus, Commissioner for Customs. and border protection. an interview.

Critics say probation is encouraging more migrants to come and that the administration is defying the legal requirement that it be granted on a “case-by-case basis”. But Magnus said it was “far more effective” and about as effective as releasing them after Border Patrol agents drafted notices to appear in immigration court. The time-consuming exercise now falls to the immigration and customs authorities when migrants report to them at their final destinations.

The Border Patrol still treats about 25,000 migrants a month to the immigration court, which agents say can take more than an hour each. Parole is processed for comparison in a few minutes.

One recent day, a Honduran woman who was about eight months pregnant was released with a notice to appear in immigration court in Cleveland, where she planned to live with an uncle. Wheeler said she does not know why some migrants are being tried in immigration court and others are on probation – and her organization is not asking.

“Our purpose is to create security,” she said.

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