Seven of every 10 families released by the Obama administration this year after entering the country illegally didn’t show up for follow-up appointments with authorities, the Associated Press reported today.
AP said it obtained an audio recording of a confidential meeting held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at which one ICE official said thousands of families caught crossing the border this year–70 percent of the total–subsequently failed to meet as instructed with federal immigration agents.
In the meeting with immigration reform advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies, the ICE official also said final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 persons traveling as families and caught at the border since May; of those, only 14 had reported for deportation.
“This news from the AP is sadly not surprising,” said David Inserra, an expert on homeland security at The Heritage Foundation, adding:
Heritage and others warned that releasing immigrants into the interior of the U.S. would result in many illegal immigrants never reporting to ICE or to their immigration court date.
More than 66,000 migrants traveling as families, mostly mothers and children, have been apprehended for illegally crossing the border since October.
Nearly 60,000 of them are from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and under U.S. law cannot be sent home immediately. So the government has been releasing the migrants into the U.S. — usually to live with family already here — and telling them to report within 15 days to the nearest ICE office.
In trying to deter future illegal border crossings, the Obama administration has said it prioritized deporting women with children because they are not entitled to the same protections as unaccompanied minors from Central America.
In June, ICE opened a temporary detention center for illegal immigrant families in Artesia, N.M. A second detention center in Karnes City, Texas, can house about 530 people.
A third such detention center will open in Texas later this year. Before the new facilities, the government had space for fewer than 100 persons at its only family detention center in Pennsylvania.
Altogether, U.S. detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, so most are released before their cases are processed.