OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Some 50,000 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally have been released in the United States without a court date.
Axios reported on Tuesday that the migrants have been told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office following their release and that only 13 percent of them showed up so far.
As detailed by the publication, the group was not given a court date to show up for hearings.
The influx of migrants, who crossed the U.S. southern border illegally, has steadily increased in recent months.
According to Axios, the sizable numbers are a sign of “just how overwhelmed some sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be: A single stretch covering the Rio Grande Valley had 20,000 apprehensions in a week. The figures also show the shortcomings of recent emergency decisions to release migrants.”
The hope has been for migrants to show up at the offices on their own volition in order to get work permits.
The move to release the migrants without official notice to appear in court is unprecedented.
The publication previously reported in March that 150 migrants were released without a court date following details provided to the publication by sources close to the issue.
At the time, guidance sent to border patrol in the sector from agency leadership ordered border agents to decide for themselves to release some migrants, often at bus stations or nongovernmental organizations, without notice to appear in court.
Agents were, at the time, using an emergency public health order to quickly release migrants and some families, and the updated guidance gave them more leeway in deciding what to do on a case-by-case basis, according to the source.
Crucially, only 6,700 migrants who crossed between mid-March and mid-July showed up at ICE offices as of this Monday, according to a source brief by Department of Homeland Security data.
An additional 16,000 migrants did not show up and passed the 60-day reporting window they were given – equivalent to 2.4 migrants who failed to report in for everyone that has.
The remaining group, made up of some 27,000 migrants, who crossed and were released at the same time frame have yet to turn up but remain under the 60-day timeframe for reporting.
A DHS official emphasized to the publication that nearly 70% of migrants are within the 60-day window or have reported to ICE.
Despite the lack of court dates given to those 50,000 migrants, the release of migrants continues unabated. Rep. Henry Cuillar told the publication that a further 7,300 migrants in the Rio Grande Valley sector have been released in the past week without court dates.
The number released without court dates since March was up to 55,000.
The months of higher-than-normal border crossing activity are seeing 20-year record highs, with more than 1 million apprehensions for the year to date.
The White House released a statement on Tuesday morning to reiterate its position on the United States being a “nation of borders” with “fair and just” enforcement of immigration laws ahead of the Axios report.
“We will always be a nation of borders, and we will enforce our immigration laws in a way that is fair and just. We will continue to work to fortify an orderly immigration system,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
To that end, the White House says it plans to take the following actions to ensure a “secure, humane, and well-managed border.”
• Making better use of existing enforcement resources. Since fiscal year 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) discretionary budget has grown from $9.9 billion to $15 billion in FY 2021. The President’s Budget redirects resources from a needless border wall to make robust investments in smarter border security measures, like border technology and modernization of land ports of entry, that are proven to be more effective at improving safety and security at the border. These investments will serve as a force multiplier to the over 19,500 Border Patrol Agents currently helping secure our Nation’s borders and the over 25,500 CBP Officers working at our land, air, and sea ports. The investments will also facilitate more robust and effective security screening to combat human smuggling and trafficking and the entry of undocumented migrants.
• Improving the expedited removal process for those who arrive at the border. The Administration is working to improve the expedited removal process at the border to fairly and efficiently determine which individuals have legitimate claims for asylum and other forms of protection. Asylum and other legal migration pathways should remain available to those seeking protection. Those not seeking protection or who don’t qualify will be promptly removed to their countries of origin.
• Facilitating secure management of borders in the region by providing training and technical assistance, supporting the improvement of border infrastructure and technology, and promoting collaborative migration and border management approaches.
• Strengthening anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking operations by working with regional governments to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and other crimes against migrants. In April 2021, DHS announced Operation Sentinel, a new operation targeting organizations involved in criminal smuggling.
• Bolstering public messaging on migration by ensuring consistent messages to discourage irregular migration and promote safe, legal, and orderly migration.