The migrant detention facilities in Southern Arizona are overflowing, and in response, ICE is abruptly releasing hundreds of detained asylum-seekers onto the streets with no institutional support other than a location-tracking ankle monitor, according to a new report by NBC News.
While releasing migrants from detention isn’t inherently a bad thing (quite the opposite), NBC notes that because of the capacity of facilities on the border, ICE is sending migrants out into the street without following normal protocol, like making sure that they have the ability to find relatives or make their court date.
And this is just the start of a new normal all across the border.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are releasing the families from detention en masse without following their usual protocol that ensures immigrants have a means to travel to their court hearing and reunite with potential relatives in the U.S.
The adults have ankle monitors to track their whereabouts until their scheduled court date to make their case before a judge for asylum.
“This is the start of a dam breaking,” the official said. “You’ll start to see this all across the southern border soon.”
The report explains that usually, ICE detention facilities hold migrants for a certain amount of time and make sure that they have adequate travel plans to meet relatives and the ability to make their court date in the future. Now, because of the sheer volume of asylum seekers, the government isn’t able to do that. An ICE spokesperson blamed it on the new settlement that says children can only be detained for 20 days.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen O’Keefe said because of the volume of families presenting themselves along the Arizona border, ICE can no longer review each immigrant’s travel plans prior to release without violating a federal court agreement, known as the Flores settlement, that limits the amount of time children can be detained to 20 days.
What this means, however, is that non-government organizations will be taking the brunt of caring for hundreds of people who have been abruptly released with no transportation, housing, or other necessities. ICE has been directly asking churches in the area, like the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, to take over care for many refugees.
Per the Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV-TV:
For Shadow Rock, Curry said ICE asked for the church to house and care for their group for a couple of nights and provide transportation to bus stops to connect with their families.
Per ABC News:
The families are mostly from Central America, according to Abeth Spencer, the director of communications for the church. Shadow Rock is providing temporary shelter and expects people to leave within a day or two.
“We’re trying to provide hospitality, companionship, and even just a smile,” Spencer said in a statement. “We will provide a safe place to sleep, food to eat, showers and companionship to our neighbors while they prepare for the next leg of their journey.”
To check in, I reached out to a couple nonprofits in the Phoenix area — I’ll update this post if I hear back.
Update, 1:07 AM 10/10/2018:
Layal Rabat, a volunteer with the Phoenix Restoration Project called me back and gave a bit more context as to the situation on the ground.
“We’ve seen large numbers of people like this being released before,” Rabat said, but added that “What’s happening right now is a lot more than our usual.”
Rabat said her group tries to provide for the immediate needs of migrants once they’re released — usually, that means being on hand at the bus stations in Phoenix with basic supplies like food and diapers and then helping people get on the right bus or make phone calls if they don’t have cell phones.
Clarification, 9:10 PM 10/10/2018:
Rabat, in an email, wanted to clarify her quote above — she didn’t mean to say “a lot more than our usual,” but meant “slightly more than our usual.”
The quote should be:
“We’ve seen large numbers of people like this being released before,” Rabat said, but added that “What’s happening right now is a slightly more than than our usual.”