The Border Patrol shelved plans to fly nearly 300 Central American illegal immigrants to California from Texas late Sunday.
Paul Beeson, chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, had told the Associated Press Saturday that two flights, each carrying approximately 140 passengers, would fly to San Diego and El Centro, approximately 100 miles east. Beeson also told AP that the flights would continue every three days and mainly carry families with children.
On Sunday, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman told the AP that the flights would not proceed as scheduled Monday, but did not give a reason. Ralph DeSio said that Beeson's statements were accurate at the time he made them.
"This whole thing is in a very fluid state," DeSio said. "I'm not sure if the plans will be reactivated but, as we're speaking here this moment, it has been canceled. Tomorrow is another day."
The government has been struggling to cope with a surge of Central Americans entering Texas' Rio Grande Valley, where the Border Patrol has made more than 174,000 arrests since Oct. 1. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decides whether families with young children and adults remain in custody or are released while they are in deportation proceedings.
U.S. border authorities have detained more than 39,000 adults with young children from October through May. Some have been released, but the Department of Homeland Security has refused to say how many and whether they failed to appear in immigration court.
The government has been actively looking for additional detention space -- primarily for mothers with young children. ICE has only one detention center designed for families, an 85-bed facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, that was once a nursing home.
The government is planning a 700-bed center in Artesia, New Mexico, that U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce told the Roswell Daily Record would be only for families. Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, told the newspaper Friday that the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia could house families but was not equipped to accommodate unaccompanied children.
The Border Patrol flew a large number of families from Texas to Tucson, Arizona, over Memorial Day weekend, drawing criticism from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer when ICE later dropped them off at Greyhound bus stations there.
Gabe Pacheco, spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council Local 1613, which represents agents in San Diego, said he believed the California flights would have occurred if they hadn't been announced.
"It's just a matter of time. They'll do it when no one's paying attention," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.