A U.S. Border Patrol academy in New Mexico will be used to house up to 700 adults with children who have crossed illegally into the United States, Fox News reported
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made the announcement
before the House Committee on Homeland Security on June 24. He said the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Artesia would serve as a temporary holding facility where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can house illegals "in a humane manner" pending their expedited deportation.
Johnson also said that the Justice Department was "temporarily reassigning immigration judges to handle the additional caseload via video teleconferencing." The increased capacity is aimed at returning the unlawful migrants to Central America more quickly, he told the committee.
A spokesman for a union representing Border Patrol personnel said he had no objection to using the facility to process the illegals for deportation.
"While the choice of the Border Patrol academy may seem ironic, if it means that illegal aliens will be processed, detained, and then deported we would not oppose the choice of that site," said Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council, according to Fox News. "The important detail is to make sure we close the loophole bringing these groups to the U.S. by not releasing them into society."
Administration critics said it was continuing to send a mixed message to unlawful migrants. Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform
, which advocates a temporary moratorium on most immigration, said using the academy was bad for morale.
"Housing illegal aliens who have taken advantage of lax immigration enforcement on the same base where Border Patrol candidates are being trained to enforce our laws is a mixed message," Dane said, according to Fox News. "It's a real life lesson — and a demoralizing one — for men and women who have sworn to uphold the law only to be stymied by political pressure from the Obama administration."
A retired U.S. Border Patrol officer, Victor Manjarrez, said he thought operations at the academy were bound to be disrupted and that the focus would necessarily shift away from training, according to Fox.
Homeland Security has faced community opposition and other difficulties in finding housing for the waves of unlawful migrants, including thousands of children, who have crossed the border this year.
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