An increase in border crossings paired with a lack of jail space has caused the federal government to set free Haitian immigrants who entered the country illegally through Mexico.
The Associated Press reported this news after a U.S. government official told them the decision to release Haitian migrants from crowded jails in Arizona and California comes as officials struggle to keep up with the number of those trying to enter the US illegally.
The Haitians are released after a criminal background and national security check is completed, and are free to live in the U.S. under the condition that they agree to return to immigration court on a decided date.
The Associated press also reported the astonishing amount of Haitian immigrants arriving in the U.S., and the lack of deportations that are being carried out:
Thousands of Haitians have arrived at the U.S. border with Mexico in recent months, many after traveling 7,000 miles by foot, taxi and bus from Brazil through eight nations. They present themselves to U.S. border inspectors, often at San Diego’s San Ysidro port of entry, the nation’s busiest crossing.
About 5,000 Haitians had showed up at San Ysidro from October 2015 through late September, overwhelming border inspectors. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana said at a recent congressional hearing that officials told her on a trip to Central America that 40,000 more were on their way. ICE says it has sent 203 Haitians back to their home country since late October.
The Department of Homeland Security last week said there were about 41,000 people in immigration detention facilities, compared to a typical population of 31,000 to 34,000. Secretary Jeh Johnson authorized the acquisition of more bed space for single adults.
The move reverses Johnson’s recently announced plans to detain Haitians during deportation proceedings. In late September, Homeland Security began putting Haitians in detention before sending them back to the homeland they fled.
In a written statement, ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said they are removing Haitians in accordance to its set enforcement priorities.
“ICE prioritizes the removal of national security threats, convicted felons, individuals convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors, and individuals apprehended at or between ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States,” she wrote.
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