Migrants entering the U.S. at the southern border are being shipped to various cities where they are released, a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement field officer said.
Government-contracted planes transport migrants from the border and into the custody of ICE field offices around the country, Fox News reported Tuesday. At least tens of thousands of individuals have been released from these destinations, the news outlet added.
"It's happening on a grand scale," said Tom Feeley, former director of the ICE Buffalo Field Office. "[Field offices are] getting pounded every day fielding calls from headquarters about who they can release to make room for more people on the border. And the following week, they're getting more calls almost daily, again, about who can you release to make room for more people on the border.
"Basically, all we're doing is we're catching them at the border, shipping them into the interior, releasing them and getting more and then releasing them and then getting more and releasing them."
iAero Airways, a major government contractor, flies migrants to places such as Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Yakima in Washington, and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania, Fox News said.
ICE Air is a nickname given to the flights for ICE. The airline also transports migrants in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for children.
"It's a lot like a hotel chain," Feeley told Fox News. "You know [ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations] can tell how many beds are open at a current facility, and then the people in charge of that aircraft will reach out to the office and say, 'You know what, you have a hundred beds open, we’re going to send you a hundred illegal aliens.'
"What's currently happening now at the headquarters level, which again has never really taken place in the past, they're actually going through the detain dockets at these facilities and picking out cases they want released to clear out beds so they can ship them more illegal aliens. So it's just another version of catch and release, but on a grander scale."
Feeley told Fox News that many migrants are being released with instructions to simply check in with ICE monthly via phone before a hearing that could be months or even years away.
Feeley said ICE headquarters is using "fear and intimidation" to force field office officials to perform their duties.
CBP encountered 213,534 migrants at the southern border in July and 208,887 in August. Those numbers have dramatically increased compared to last year, when 40,929 were encountered in July and 50,014 in August.
"U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seen an increase in the number of migrants who entered from the U.S. southern border being sent to offices throughout the United States, including Chicago," an ICE spokesperson told Fox News.
"Custody determinations are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security policy and entail consideration of the merits and factors of each case while also adhering to current agency priorities, guidelines and legal mandates."
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