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Undocumented migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande into the United States on May 15 in McAllen, Texas. (Ricky Carioti/Washington Post)
SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Border Patrol said Friday that it would fly hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego for processing and that it was considering flights to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York.
The flights are the latest sign of how the Border Patrol is struggling to keep up with large numbers of Central American families that are reaching the U.S. border with Mexico, especially in Texas. Moving migrants to less crowded places is expected to distribute the workload more evenly.
Flights from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to San Diego were to begin Friday and continue indefinitely three times a week, with each flight carrying 120 to 135 people, said Douglas Harrison, the Border Patrol’s interim San Diego sector chief.
“We don’t have an end date,” Harrison told reporters. “This is a contingency operation. We’ve got to give the people in Rio Grande Valley some relief.”
Plans to fly from Rio Grande Valley to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo were preliminary, Harrison said. Authorities were researching available airports and the ability for nonprofit groups to provide temporary assistance.
Already, U.S. authorities are moving four buses a day from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away. There is also a daily flight contracted through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Del Rio, Texas, about 275 miles away (440 kilometers) away.
Agents in the Rio Grande Valley will collect biographical information and do a medical screening before sending migrants to San Diego on flights contracted by ICE, Harrison said. Migrants will go from San Diego International Airport to a Border Patrol station, where they will be fingerprinted, interviewed and screened again for medical problems. Processing at the station typically takes hours.
ICE will decide whether to release or detain the families in San Diego. Its practice since October has been to quickly release families in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court.
The flights could further strain the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of religious and civic groups that has provided temporary shelter to asylum-seeking families since large-scale releases began in October. San Diego County has sued the Trump administration to recover costs.
The San Diego Rapid Response Network said it would shelter migrants who are flown from Texas, just as the organization has done for thousands of migrants released in California. It said the potential influx “underscores the urgent need for a permanent, long-term migrant shelter in San Diego.”
Short flights cost the federal government about $6,000 each, officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear how much longer flights cost.
Border Patrol agents do some processing remotely by videoconference, but Harrison said stations in the Rio Grande Valley had run out of room even to do that. San Diego, he said, had room to hold migrants for up to 72 hours and staff to process them, which stations on the northern border lack.
Border arrests have surged since the summer to 98,977 in April, nearly three times what they were a year earlier. Nearly seven of every 10 came as families or were children traveling alone. The Rio Grande Valley was by far the busiest corridor, followed by El Paso, Texas.
The Border Patrol says it is detaining about 8,000 people at a time in the Rio Grande Valley, double its maximum capacity even with a 500-person tent it opened earlier this month.
The agency said Friday it would open four new temporary structures in the Rio Grande Valley that will have generators, lighting, and air conditioning. It released photos showing people lying on grass or pavement outside two of its stations with Mylar sheets for blankets.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.
Supreme Court halts Texas execution over Buddhist spiritual advisor The Supreme Court has taken a new and stronger stand against religious discrimination with liberals and most conservatives agreeing to halt a Texas execution. By a 7-2 vote, the court granted an emergency stay for Patrick Murphy and ruled prison authorities may not proceed “unless the […]
The tails of four American Airlines passenger planes are seen at Miami International Airport in Miami on July 17, 2015. Hail damage forced a Phoenix-bound American Airlines flight to divert to El Paso, Texas, Sunday night, CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports. No injuries were reported, but the Airbus A319’s nose and windshield […]
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astrodome, which became known as the Eighth Wonder of the World as the world’s first domed stadium, has received the highest honor Texas can give a historic structure. A marker designating the Astrodome as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark was unveiled at ceremonies Tuesday outside the Houston icon. The stadium […]
Rudy Gutierrez/The El Paso Times/AP UTEP president Diana Natalicio talks with Wallace Hall, Jr., a UT system regent as they viewed the ongoing construction on the center of the UTEP campus Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 in El Paso. When Diana Natalicio graduated from a blue-collar St. Louis high school in 1957, life expectations were clear […]
EL PASO, Texas – The suicidal man who locked himself inside a vehicle in a Northeast El Paso parking lot has surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff. The El Paso Police Department SWAT team blocked off the parking lot off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at about 7:30 a.m. The team was deployed to […]
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(Photo: Courtesy Crime Stoppers of El Paso) El Paso police are trying to identify a man who used a knife during a Friday the 13th cellphone shop robbery last month. The unsolved robbery on April 13 is Crime Stoppers of El Paso’s Crime of the Week. The robbery occurred at 1:15 p.m. at the Metro […]
Migrant caravan seeking asylum arrives at US border Recently, I visited Del Rio, Texas, marking my fourth visit to the southwest border. My previous trips have taken me to El Paso and Laredo in Texas, and San Diego in California. Del Rio offered a unique perspective to border security because of its rural character, allowing […]
The new Texas A&M coach and the semi-new LSU coach will visit the Touchdown Club of Houston over the next couple of weeks, and tickets are still available to both events that help raise money for area high schools and prep athletes. The Aggies’ Jimbo Fisher will speak on the recently-completed spring drills and his […]