When migrants are discharged from Customs and Border Protection custody, they’re transferred to another government agency or released into local communities, a former border official told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
If migrants are not transferred to other federal facilities, they may be released into local communities. Sometimes migrants traveling as family units are not taken into custody at all or formally processed but released without court dates, getting assistance from local charities or non-government agencies that connect them with family members or friends in the interior of the U.S. and make travel arrangements to join them.
When CBP agents encounter single adults they are rapidly expelled under the Title 42 public health order instated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration started admitting some asylum-seeking migrants who were required to wait in Mexico as their claims were processed under the Trump administration in March, though the administration advised migrants not to travel to the U.S. because most will be denied entry, Reuters reported.
Unaccompanied migrant minors are required to go to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelters and family units are typically transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told the DCNF.
“Unaccompanied minors are mandated to go to HHS, so every single unaccompanied minor is transported to HHS by border patrol,” Morgan told the DCNF. “HHS is currently building more facilities for minors at a considerable cost to the taxpayers.”
“An unaccompanied minor is going to go to HHS, then they’ll find a sponsor and that kid could end up anywhere in the United States,” Morgan told the DCNF.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered over 172,000 migrants including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors in March 2021, according to the agency. The agency is on track to encounter more migrants in 2021 than in the last 20 years, Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
Migrants traveling as family units are supposed to be transferred to ICE custody, Morgan told the DCNF. However, with ICE facilities operating at capacity, CBP officials are releasing most family units into local communities and directing them towards faith-based charity operations or other non-governmental organizations for assistance.
“ICE is at capacity so the majority of families now on the southwest border are being released directly from Border Patrol into local communities,” Morgan told the DCNF. “They’ll go to the local community, FEMA is providing some funding to the NGOs and faith-based or local shelters — those individuals will go to those shelters and will be provided with transportation.”
Catholic Charities of the RGV is one of the faith-based charities operating in McAllen, Texas. The group has helped 100,000 migrants who were released from CBP custody since 2014 and is the “first point of contact for these individuals when they are released from the immigration detention centers,” according to the group’s website.
CBP officials routinely drop off migrants in downtown McAllen at a COVID-19 testing site consisting of several tents and porta-potties set up in a parking lot across the street from the downtown bus station. A CBP official and private security guard acted as security for the structure and prevented journalists from entering the makeshift facility on March 27.
It’s unclear who was responsible for operating the facility, but the migrants entered carrying clear bags containing shoelaces, belts and other personal items and left holding manilla envelopes. On several occasions, a person wearing a teal vest with the words “STAFF Catholic Charities RGV” arrived at the facility to escort groups of migrants two blocks down the street to a charity-operated humanitarian respite center.
The organization provides migrants with legal advice, temporary shelter, medical care and transportation services and each day receives between 80 and 200 migrants who typically stay at the facility for 24 hours, according to their website.
The Catholic Charities of the RGV did not respond to numerous requests for comment from the DCNF.
Migrants were repeatedly seen leaving the humanitarian respite center with the manilla envelopes they received at the COVID-19 testing site which had detailed travel information written on them. Some of the migrants made their way across the street to the bus station where a security guard at the door prevented journalists from entering.
“The bottom line is that they’re [the migrants] being apprehended, they’re being released and then our government is facilitating the transportation of these individuals throughout the United States, whether they’re dropped off at a bus station and given a ticket or giving them a packet and buying them a plane ticket,” Morgan told the DCNF.
The words “please help me. I do not speak English. What plane do I need to take? Thank you for your help!” were printed on a sheet of paper, stapled to the manilla envelopes and seen in several instances at the McAllen airport.
Morgan told the DCNF he saw five separate families with these envelopes on his flight out of McAllen. “They’re being flown all over the United States,” he added.
The Biden administration authorized border officials to practice prosecutorial discretion when issuing notices to appear, meaning not every migrant CBP encounters is issued a court date before they are released, the DCNF reported.
“The immigration attorneys and nonprofits will tell them [the migrants], ‘look, you don’t show up, you don’t appear in court, it’s going to be worse for you,’” south Texas immigration lawyer Alfredo Lozano told the DCNF. “You don’t want to be in that position, you do want to show up to court, you do want to fight your case.’”
Lozano said that most of his clients honor their court dates, though he expressed concerns about CBP’s decision to not issue notices to appear universally since it could cause greater problems such as ground for removal of unknowing migrants later down the road.