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In El Paso, Detention Facilities And Nonprofits Caring For Asylum-Seekers Are Overwhelmed

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Image via Flickr/Hadley Paul Garland (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The border fence between Mexico and the U.S. on a stretch of land between New Mexico and El Paso.

From Texas Standard:

Over the weekend, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, began releasing large numbers of mostly Central American migrants from detention facilities in El Paso. The releases have continued, with the agency letting 500 migrants go Wednesday.

Bob Moore reports on immigration for The Washington Post and Texas Monthly. He says a nonprofit called Annunciation House has been caring for the migrants in hospitality centers, providing them shelter and food.

"This influx has just strained Annunciation House's capacity beyond all measure," Moore says.

Migrants are being released now because the U.S. government is not allowed to hold them indefinitely, and their asylum cases have not yet concluded.

"These people have all passed the 'credible fear' interview on their asylum claims, so these people generally get released with a notice to appear in court," Moore says. "It will probably take something like three years for their asylum claims to be adjudicated."

The releases come against the backdrop of two deaths of migrant children while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CPB, Moore says.

"The only significant change so far is they did do a mass health check on all of the children in CBP custody," Moore says. "We're still waiting to see what major policy changes might be made."

Moore says the death of 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez occurred after he was released from a hospital and returned to his father who was in a detention facility.

"He was taken to a highway checkpoint in New Mexico and placed with his father in a very dingy cell where he got increasingly ill, was taken back to the hospital and then died," Moore says.

Moore says CBP has been "warehousing" families at highway checkpoints for months, because they have no other facilities in which to house them.

"[This practice] gets to the real root of both the humanitarian crisis going on in El Paso right now, and what caused the deaths of these two children," he says.

Moore says the immigration detention system is not set up to deal with families.

"We have an immigration enforcement system that's still built largely to stop single Mexican men from entering the United States. That has not been a significant problem for more than a decade," Moore says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

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