(by Daniel González, The Republic, AZCentral) – Scores of undocumented immigrants from Central America have been released at Greyhound bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix over the past several days after they were flown to Arizona from south Texas. Authorities flew 400 people suspected of entering the U.S. illegally to Arizona over the weekend and released them at bus stops because detention facilities were full after a surge in migrants, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Andy Adame, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Tucson, confirmed that over the weekend federal officials flew about 400 migrants apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to Tucson to be processed. He said the migrants were flown to Arizona because the Border Patrol does not have enough manpower to handle a surge in illegal immigrants in south Texas.
The release has drawn criticism from those on both sides of the immigration issue. Many Republicans in Congress and some state lawmakers say the federal government is not doing enough to secure the U.S. southern border, while a number of groups push for policy reform to allow the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country to obtain a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Border enforcement groups are concerned that the migrants will now disappear into the U.S., spurring even more to come illegally.
“This is a huge concern,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for more immigration and border enforcement. “This is exactly the incentive for people to cross the border illegally,” he said.
Humanitarian groups are concerned that immigration officials are dropping migrants off at bus stations to fend for themselves without food, water and basic necessities.
“It’s not safe healthwise and we are concerned for their physical safety,” said Cyndi Whitmore, a volunteer with the Phoenix Restoration Project, an advocacy group that has been going to the bus terminal in Phoenix to help.
She said that Tuesday night she went to the Greyhound station on Buckeye Road and found 50 women and young children who had just been released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Among the children were infants 6 months old. “Some of the kids were crying,” Whitmore said. “Some were infants that weren’t fully clothed. They didn’t have diapers. They didn’t have formula.”
Laurie Melrood, a volunteer family advocate in Tucson, said ICE has been dropping off small numbers of migrants at the Greyhound bus station there for about seven months. But on Monday, she said, ICE dropped off about 70 people, followed by another 90 on Tuesday and at least 60 on Wednesday. She said all of the migrants dropped off this week were women and children. In the past, most were adult men and women. Over the past month, detention facilities in Texas overflowed with migrants for the first time as a large influx of Central Americans crossed the border into the Rio Grande Valley, said Andy Adame, the U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in Tucson, Arizona.
In response, volunteers in Phoenix and Tucson have been going to the bus stations to help the migrants make arrangements to buy bus tickets to travel to relatives in other cities. They also have been providing food, water and other necessities.
South Texas is now the main gateway for illegal immigration along the Southwest border with Mexico. Border Patrol arrests in the Tucson Sector have plummeted in recent years but have soared in the Rio Grande Valley. Last fiscal year, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector apprehended 154,453 immigrants attempting to cross, up from 97,762 the previous year, according to USA TODAY.
Many people who cross the border illegally from Mexico are quickly returned by the U.S. Border Patrol, but those from Central America and other regions are supposed to be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so they can be flown home.
ICE officials said the migrants being released are families apprehended by the Border Patrol trying to enter the U.S. illegally. After screening, they are being released under supervision and then required to report to a local ICE office near their destination within 15 days.
Their cases will be managed based on ICE enforcement priorities, which focus on removing criminals who pose a threat as well as recent border crossers and immigration violators.
But Mehlman at FAIR said that once migrants are released, they often disappear and ICE doesn’t go looking for them unless they have criminal records.
ICE officials said the agency began transporting migrants to the bus station in Phoenix after Greyhound officials complained the station in Tucson was being overwhelmed.
In response to criticism, the agency started giving migrants sack lunches and allowing them calls to make travel arrangements.
ICE was unable to confirm if all 400 migrants flown to Arizona were released.
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NOTE TO STUDENTS: The issue of the large number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. is a controversial topic. Remember that most of the people who come here do so to have the opportunity for a better life and the freedom to make it happen. But this is not an issue of being “unkind,” rather an issue of enforcing the law. Also, in this age of terrorism, it is crucial that we know who is coming into the U.S., and for what purpose. Those who enforce U.S. laws should not be accused of being unkind – they are being responsible. On the other hand, those who support citizenship for all undocumented immigrants are being compassionate and aren’t concerned with the numbers or the law with which they disagree. People on both sides of this issue feel that they support the policies that are best for our country. Speak courteously to one another on this topic.
1. Define the following:
- undocumented immigrant
- illegal immigrant
2. a) The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)
b) Why have ICE officials done this?
3. a) What is FAIR?
b) What concerns do Border Enforcement and organizations like FAIR have with ICE’s actions? (see para. 4-6, 15)
4. a) What concerns do advocates who help illegal immigrants have with ICE’s actions?
b) What did Cyndi Whitmore find at the Greyhound bus station? How are these advocacy groups helping the undocumented immigrants?
5. Border enforcement groups are concerned that illegal immigrants will now disappear into the U.S., spurring even more to come illegally. In paragraph 5, Ira Mehlmen says, “This is a huge concern. [Not detaining people who are in the U.S. illegally] is exactly the incentive for people to cross the border illegally.” What has immigration advocate volunteer Laurie Melrood noticed that suggests Mr. Mehlman’s concerns are valid? (see para. 9)
6. a) What happens to families who come to the U.S. illegally if they are caught by Border Patrol and handed over to ICE?
b) Read the information on ICE under “Background” below. How does the explanation of ICE’s mission under “Background” differ from the description of its priorities in para. 14?
7. Currently U.S. federal law prohibits non-citizens from entering the U.S. illegally. (see “Background” below for the text)
- The federal government has never really fully enforced this law. It is acceptable for a federal government agency (ICE) to choose which laws they will enforce? If a citizen ignores a law he/she doesn’t like such as paying federal income tax, is he free to ignore it? Explain your answer.
- Are the actions of the federal government, in not enforcing the law and also refusing to secure all of our borders, causing the problem? Human compassion would lead most of us to help women and children (including babies) who were just dropped at a bus station – without diapers or formula (or food). What number of women and children dropped off at a bus station will be too many for the volunteers to help? 1,000? 10,000? …
- What do you think? Should the federal government continue its present course? Should officials find housing and jobs for any immigrants who are lucky enough to make it across the border illegally, or should they take real action to seal the borders and enforce the law? Explain your answer.
- If potential immigrants get the word that it is impossible to get across will such large numbers stop coming? Explain your answer.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation’s border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.
- Headquartered in Washington, D.C., ICE is charged with the investigation and enforcement of over 400 federal statutes within the U.S., and maintains attachés at major U.S. embassies overseas.
- ICE is led by a director, who is appointed at the sub-Cabinet level by the president of the United States, confirmed by the Senate, and reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
- ICE is the second largest criminal investigations agency in the U.S. government, following the FBI.
- The mission of ICE is to protect the United States and uphold public safety by enforcing immigration and customs laws. (from wikipedia)
Section 1325 in Title 8 of the United States Code, “Improper entry of alien”, provides for a fine, imprisonment, or both for any immigrant who:
- enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration agents, or
- eludes examination or inspection by immigration agents, or
- attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact.
The maximum prison term is 6 months for the first offense and 2 years for any subsequent offense. In addition to the above criminal fines and penalties, civil fines may also be imposed. (from wikipedia)
US Code – Section 1325: Improper entry by alien –
(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. (b) Improper time or place; civil penalties Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of – (1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or (2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection. Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed. (c) Marriage fraud Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both. (d) Immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud Any individual who knowingly establishes a commercial enterprise for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined in accordance with title 18, or both. (from codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/8/12/II/VIII/1325#sthash.XYwc3xRS.dpuf)
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