The malice and incompetence behind President Trump’s deplorable immigration policies coalesced in a humanitarian crisis in El Paso, Texas as agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) reneged on their promise to inform local officials and nonprofits when they released large numbers of detainees without notice onto the streets of El Paso without any money or transportation options, Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) told Texas Monthly yesterday.
After ICE dropped off about 100 migrants without notice at the Greyhound station near downtown El Paso in October, they pledged to give local authorities advance notice of future releases so aid workers could be brought in to help the disoriented refugees navigate their way to find shelters, meals, and transportation.
O’Rourke said that ICE officials are now suddenly planning to release hundreds of more detainees over the Christmas holiday as aid agencies and city officials rush to figure out how to handle the unexpected flood of released immigrants.
No ICE spokesperson was available for comment, probably since many department members have been furloughed due to Trump’s government shutdown, But Beto O’Rourke mentioned that there was no evidence that the sudden decision to release the migrants without notice was directly related to the shutdown.
According to Texas Monthly:
“’ICE admitted that they dropped the ball, that they made a mistake yesterday by not giving the community any kind of heads-up on releasing 214 migrants at the Greyhound bus station last night and early this morning,’ O’Rourke said. ‘They said that they would give us a heads-up going forward although they promised to do that before.’ O’Rourke spoke at a fire station across the street from the Greyhound station, where migrant families were taken to be fed.”
According to the new Representative assuming O’Rourke’s seat in the new Congress, Representative-elect Veronica Escobar, Annunciation House, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for migrants in El Paso for the past four decades, would be paying for hotel rooms for the close to a thousand released detainees expected to be freed over the holidays.
Escobar worried that the large number of simultaneous releases would deplete Annunciation House’s financial resources quickly and urged people to donate to the non-profit.
“And we’re only talking about the shelter at that point. We’re not even talking about the need for more volunteers and more food, more supplies, etcetera. So this is just a terrible crisis, during the most difficult time to get volunteers,” she said.
Beto O’Rourke went on Twitter to thank volunteers and call for donations as well.
Our thanks to everyone in the community who has come out on Christmas Eve to help migrant families. If you're not in El Paso and want to help, make a donation at https://t.co/062olx7YIp pic.twitter.com/Lm6oEigME2
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) December 25, 2018
Escobar criticized ICE for their failure to smoothly coordinate the release of detainees to ensure their safety. She said that during the last major surge in 2016, ICE set up a temporary processing center in the El Paso County town of Tornillo — where the agency now has set up a tent facility for migrant children — to handle asylum claims and arrange for an orderly release to Annunciation House.
“There’s absolutely no reason why those temporary holding facilities cannot be set up once again, no reason,” Escobar said. “The blueprint exists and frankly the money obviously exists because the Tornillo child prison seems to get a blank check. So there’s money there. I don’t understand why federal law enforcement has failed to use this solution that worked so well in 2016.”
While the manner in which the detained refugees were released was incompetently chaotic, the good news is that many of the newly freed immigrants will finally be able to contact family members already in the United States and be reunited with their loved ones who will be able to help them survive as their asylum claims work their ways through the immigration courts.
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Original reporting by Robert Moore at Texas Monthly.