Tens of thousands of immigrants who illegally crossed the Mexico border into Texas are in the process of being released into communities throughout the nation rather than being indefinitely detained or immediately deported, a congressman told Watchdog.org.
The releases have already started and the Border Patrol did not disclose how many. At least 60,000 Central Americans have entered the country illegally this year, though some news reports say the figure is as high as 170,000.
An effort is under way to place children in foster homes or with relatives already living in the United States, said Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
The adults are being given a "notice to appear," something like to a traffic ticket that requires they show up for a deportation hearing. Following that notice, they are simply being released. Those who return for the hearing will face a federal immigration judge to determine their fate.
"You know good and well they won't show up and we won't go looking for them," Gohmert said. "When they get their piece of paper saying report back on such a day at such a time, they take that as their legal permit to stay in the country and they go do what they want."
A senior Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective who routinely deals with illegal immigrants said a "massive number — 80 to 90 percent" do not show up for deportation hearings. Detention is not even being considered because Homeland Security facilities are not equipped to hold a large number of people, said the detective, who spoke on a guarantee of anonymity.
The Border Patrol on Tuesday is expected to begin transporting some immigrants to Southern California despite the protests of Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif. Calvert said he had heard a rumor of the transportation and pleaded with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to leave California out of the Texas border mess. Flights carrying 280 people a day will continue for the foreseeable future, FoxLA reported.
Calvert was not initially notified by the Department of Homeland Security. He learned of the plan only when his staff called local Border Patrol agents.
"Instead of solving the immigration problems along our border in Texas, President Obama has decided to spread that problem into communities in my congressional district and throughout Southern California," Calvert said in a statement.
The senior Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective offers a shocking insight into DHS' "notice to appear" program.
"We have illegal immigrants who have been detained because they are suspects in a crime, but we don't have the evidence to charge them yet so they are just released," the detective said. "Many of these people have already been convicted of felonies here. It used to be after they served their time in the jail they would be released to immigration officials and deported, but that ship has long since sailed.
"We even have a word for them — criminal aliens," the detective said.
DHS spokesman Roger Maier was asked about the number of immigrants in custody and how many have already been released. He replied, "I do not have the data immediately available."
Gohmert was at the Texas border last week, witnessing the problem firsthand.
"Some of them are the cutest little kids you could ever see, you just want to pick them up and hug them," he said. "Then there are kids who are 15, 16, 17, you don't know for sure. They could be over 20, but they don't have any ID and you just have to take their word for it."
Gohmert said he talked to two women who said the fathers of their children were in North Carolina with good jobs and that they wanted to go there.
"Not only did they think they could come and get to stay, they had heard that the U.S. government would transport the children to wherever the parents were," Gohmert said.
"What's going to happen is that they will be provided with healthcare, anything to meet their needs, and food stamps."
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