SAN DIEGO - The Border Patrol announced Friday that it was going forward with its plans to fly Central American migrants from the Rio Grande Valley to Southern California and two Texas border cities to help relieve what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis.
Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that the agency plans to transport adults and children from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo and El Paso in Texas, and San Diego and El Centro in Southern California.
10News has confirmed hundreds of undocumented immigrants could be arriving in San Diego by plane as soon as Sunday.
The National Border Patrol Council in El Centro tells 10News the group of about 140 immigrants will then be bused to a Border Patrol processing center in Murrieta. They say another 140 are also expected to fly into Yuma, Ariz. Then, they will be transferred to Border Patrol facilities in El Centro.
Friday's announcement comes less than a week after the agency canceled the California flights.
Paul Beeson, chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector, told The Associated Press a week ago that the plan at that time called for two flights with 140 passengers each. They were expected to continue every three days, carrying mostly families with children and some adults.
Once the migrants are processed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement decides who can be released while awaiting deportation proceedings.
Thousands of Central American families and unaccompanied children have been coming to the U.S. in recent months as they flee violence, murders and extortion from criminal gangs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many of them are under the impression that they will receive leniency from U.S. authorities once they get here.
More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central America, have been detained since October. The vast majority have been caught in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. Because officials had run out of room at holding facilities there, they began releasing immigrant families and requiring them to report back within 15 days. Later, officials flew hundreds to Arizona for processing.
Several new detention centers are expected to open to deal with the influx of women and children fleeing gang violence and poverty in Central American.
News of detention centers opening in communities has stirred up fear and anger among residents who worry the immigrants will bring in new illnesses, tax local resources, escape and spike crime rates.
A senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official during a media tour Thursday of a new facility in New Mexico told The Associated Press that authorities there aim to deport the immigrants within 10 to 15 days to send a message back to their home countries that there are consequences for illegal immigration. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk publicly, citing agency policy.
With this new facility, women found crossing with children will not be released, but held and quickly processed, a step toward returning the department to its policy of not releasing families and deporting those who don't have permission to enter the U.S. legally.
Customs and Border Protection statement regarding the action:
"At the direction of President Barack Obama and Secretary Johnson, on June 1, a Unified Coordination Group was established to leverage Federal resources as part of a humanitarian response to an influx of unaccompanied children across the Southwest Border. This includes DHS and all of its components, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Justice, State and the General Services Administration. Secretary Johnson appointed Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate to serve as the Federal Coordinating Official for this U.S. Government-wide effort.
Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is making further arrangements to transport adults with children from the Rio Grande Valley to the Laredo and El Paso Sectors in Texas and San Diego and El Centro Sectors in California. The movement will allow the U.S. Border Patrol in less congested areas to assist in processing family units from South Texas where we are seeing an influx of migrants crossing the border. The transfer of immigrants between Border Patrol sectors occurs on a regular basis to allow CBP to manage flows and processing capability.
Once the family groups arrive in the sector, CBP will assist with processing the apprehended immigrants by interviewing and processing them for removal. At which point, the family groups will be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), where appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing national security and public safety."