Nearly 150 migrants who entered the country illegally and are bound for a Border Patrol facility in Riverside County could be released from custody until the government figures out what to do with them, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday.
The border runners, whom federal officials say are mostly "adults with children," are among tens of thousands of citizens of Central American countries who have poured into the United States via Texas this year.
The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector has been overwhelmed by the arrivals, prompting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to seek other locations to send them until their cases can be assessed.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection's El Centro and San Diego sectors are about to begin assisting with the processing of migrants apprehended in South Texas, many of whom are adults with children," according to an ICE statement.
"CBP will transfer certain individuals to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Removal Operations, where appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing national security and public safety."
The ICE document specifies that Murrieta will be the end point for "processing" the individuals, noting that they "may be released with instructions to report to a local ICE office near their destination address within 15 days."
Where exactly the transferees, anticipated to begin arriving this week, will go while awaiting adjudication of their cases was not clear, though ICE officials pointed out that faith-based charities, non-governmental organizations and the migrants' own consular offices in Los Angeles were being asked to lend a hand.
Murrieta Mayor Alan Long told concerned residents during a town hall meeting Monday that the city is coordinating with the Border Patrol to ensure the sudden influx doesn't create an untenable situation locally.
He expressed frustration that the federal government was moving its "headache" to Riverside County but assured residents that the individuals set to arrive don't have criminal backgrounds.
Long said he was informed by border officials that about 140 of the immigrants could arrive in Murrieta by bus tomorrow.
Ira Mehlman with the Federation for American Immigration Reform told City News Service there is no way of knowing "with certainty" the histories of those being brought to the area. Mehlman said some of the "children" who have been showing up and surrendering to federal agents along the border look older than they claim and have been identified as affiliates of criminal syndicates such as the notorious MS-13.
"Before the Obama administration put a gag order on the Border Patrol, agents were saying they recognized some of these so-called 'kids' as gang members," Mehlman said. "The agents were forced to take them anyway. The last thing any community wants is more gang members running around."
Mehlman said the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, policy initiative has served as an "inducement" for undocumented immigrants to make a mad dash across the U.S.-Mexico border.
"There's no question about a surge," Mehlman said. "The estimates are 90,000 DACA asylum-seekers this year and 150,000 next year. DACA sends a signal that if you're a minor, you'll get to stay in the United States, regardless of immigration status."
According to Mehlman, DACA is a spin-off of the DREAM Act, which has failed to attain federal legislative approval, though a number of states, including California, have enacted their own versions. Under California's DREAM Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria are provided with financial aid for college. Critics characterize DACA and the DREAM Act as just backdoor forms of amnesty.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has blamed President Barack Obama directly for the "national security crisis" being created by the influx at the southern border.
"The president has failed to take the necessary steps to address this crisis," Boehner said last week, stressing the need for increased security and a better use of federal resources to get the migrants processed.
Obama shot back today, saying the Republican-controlled House should have passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill by now that lays out steps for resolving contingencies like the migrant surge.
"It's bad for our economy and it's bad for our future," Obama said.
He said he had ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step in to find housing for the detainees.
Mehlman told City News Service said one way to expedite vetting migrants to determine who has a legitimate case for asylum and who doesn't is for the federal government to dispatch immigration "adjudicators" to the border to "determine immediately who has a viable case for staying, and identify those who don't and should be deported."
"The government is just scrambling around now," Mehlman said. "That goes back to Mr. Obama's policies and a total lack of enforcement of our laws."--City News Service