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168,000 illegal immigrants released into US in 7 months, ICE says

Border Patrol agents transfer migrants apprehended on the Tohono O'odham Nation for transport to a facility in nearby Tucson, Ariz. Located on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, the sprawling and sparsely populated reservation covers more than 2.8 million square miles and has long been a popular entryway for smugglers trafficking people and drugs into the U.S. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
May 10, 2019

Approximately 168,000 illegal immigrants have been released into the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so far this fiscal year alone, and that number is expected to rise.

Acting chief of ICE’s deportation branch Nathalie Asher told Congress on Wednesday that released immigrants are skipping out on court appearances, which results in deportation orders, but the government can’t track down the missing migrants, the Washington Times reported Wednesday.

“Family units are not appearing in great numbers,” Asher said, adding that 87 percent of those released fail to attend their court hearings.

U.S. law and a 2015 court ruling require the release of illegal immigrants traveling with children within 20 days of detention. Due to the backlog of asylum cases, the migrants end up released before they ever appear in court, leaving the government to hope the immigrants show up to the hearings.

An increasing number of migrants continue to pour into the U.S., especially those with children.

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“They have received the message loud and clear: Bring a child, you will be released,” said Carla Provost, chief of the Border Patrol.

A record 110,000 apprehensions were made at the southern border in April alone, the highest number in more than a decade. Of that 110,000, nearly all were made while the immigrants were sneaking across the border. Only 10,000 were apprehended at border entry points, and they had demanded entry.

Further, a staggering 62,000 immigrants were apprehended in family groups, the highest number of family unit apprehensions ever recorded, and double the number of those apprehensions in January.

“From interviews that we have done with the families we are apprehending, they are hearing that message loud and clear. They are hearing that from the smugglers, they are hearing that from the media down in the Northern Triangle,” Provost said.

The 20-day promise of release is also encouraging frauds who take advantage of the policy.

Provost said 3,500 “fraudulent” families have been apprehended since October 2018. Those include groups posing as families because an adult brings a child who may or may not be related to them, then poses as the child’s parent.

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Children have been kidnapped and even sold to support the scheme.

Provost said the agency recently encountered a case in which “the child admitted to basically being sold by his father.”

ICE suspects that one in 10 families are fraudulent.

“The fraud, the exploitation, is rampant, and it’s not stopping,” Asher warned.

Immigration officials have requested that Congress change the precedent set by the 2015 court ruling and permit families to be detained longer than 20 days, to expand detention centers, permit deportation of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors, and to change asylum rules so they are not so easily abused.