By Elizabeth Llorente
Published March 22, 2019
Immigration officials plan to release nearly 2,000 illegal immigrants from custody in the Texas area over the weekend, according to the local ABC-TV affiliate.
The release of the large number of immigrants comes as Border Patrol agents struggle to manage hundreds of more immigrants waiting along the border to turn themselves in and request political asylum, the news outlet said, citing an unnamed Border Patrol officer.
The release of so many immigrants prompted the El Paso Police Department to send an alert asking for volunteers to help.
"Urgent. Volunteers are needed today and tomorrow to help local Non-Governmental Organizations with the influx of migrants released yesterday and today," the alert stated.
Churches in Texas and elsewhere along border states have been helping to provide shelter and other services to immigrants who are released pending claims for asylum or other services.
Ruben Garcia, the executive director of Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso that houses immigrants temporarily in a working partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, expressed concern that his organization cannot keep up with the demand of people arriving at the border in large numbers.
He was reaching out to churches in the area for help in housing the immigrants, according to the ABC report.
"If each one of those faith communities received, if they made the commitment to receive 20 refugees per week, just per week, that would allow us to receive 8,000 refugees per week," said Garcia.
A renewed surge of Central Americans showing up at the border has prompted immigration authorities, who say they are running out of space to hold them, to release them into the U.S.
From Dec. 21 to March 20, ICE released more than 100,000 people into the U.S., reported the Fox affiliate in San Diego.
The U.S. Border Patrol this month released families with notices to appear in court, the news outlet reported, noting the agency has not done such a thing since 1998. It said that the protocol is that the Border Patrol typically hands over migrants requesting asylum to ICE, which handles their petition and assumes custody.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said the release of migrants does not mark a return to the controversial “catch-and-release” policy.
“It’s not a protocol and there’s no reintroduction of catch-and-release,” she said. “But we are out of detention space.”