The US has started releasing hordes of illegal immigrants detained into the country as immigration authorities find it hard to find places that can potentially house them, with The Los Angeles Times reporting that at least 250 people were freed from the detention between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Normally, the Border Patrol would transfer the migrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be further “processed” and in many cases placed in multiple detention facilities in the area, but officials remarked Wednesday that a recent influx of Central American families had resulted in a significant shortage of space.
The rhetoric prompted immigration advocates to suggest that the releases were indented to amass crowds of people all in one place, sowing panic and confusion to thereby justify Trump’s argument of a national emergency at the border.
“They are doing this deliberately so they can release a ton of people at once and create chaos”, The LA Times quoted Efren Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, as saying.
However, a Border Patrol official, cited by the newspaper on condition of anonymity, denied the release having been designed as a political trick, arguing that packed facilities are not good for agents and migrants alike.
“It is a crisis”, he said. “It’s not a self-proclaimed crisis”, the officer went on, noting that the agency intends to make similar releases along other segments of the border.
A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told reporters that the releases were initiated in a bid “to mitigate risks to both officer safety and vulnerable populations under these circumstances”.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned earlier this month that the migration crisis on the country’s southern border “is spiralling out of control”, citing signs of the crunch getting “even worse” as time goes by. She stated that Customs and Border Protection stands on guard at the border, now being on track to detain a nearly one million illegal immigrants at the border, as “aliens” reaching the border have risen by a staggering 80 percent in number, as compared to the same time last year.
“In February, we saw a 30 percent jump over the previous month, with agents apprehending or encountering nearly 75,000 aliens”, Nielsen detailed the migration statistics to the House Committee on Homeland Security.
She stressed that in contrast to legal immigrants, which the country welcomes “through a merit-based system that enhances our economic vitality and the vibrancy of our diverse nation”, illegal border crossing threatens “public safety and national security”, expressing concern that it is currently on the rise.
The developments notably come at the backdrop of President Trump declaring a national emergency on the US-Mexican border in a bid to make good on his 2016 campaign promise to stem the flood of illegal migrants from crossing into the United States by erecting a steel fence between the countries.
Trump opted for the national emergency measure after Congress approved only a tiny fraction of the $5.7 billion budget he asked to earmark for the wall — a means to bypass a Democratic-controlled House and enable the president to redirect funds from military expenses, for instance, to the wall.
The House voted 26 February to terminate Trump's declaration of a national emergency and so did the US Senate shortly afterwards, as 12 GOP senators joined with Democrats in passing the measure to overturn the president's emergency declaration. However, last week, Trump issued a veto, the first in his presidency, calling the lawmakers’ decision “dangerous”, “reckless”, and a “vote against reality. This essentially means Trump’s declaration will remain in effect.