Phoenix, AZ (KNXV) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have released more people seeking asylum in the United States from custody, citing a shortage in space.
The release comes as thousands of people fleeing violence in Central America as part of a migrant caravan are beginning to arrive in Tijuana, hoping to enter the U.S. and claim asylum here.
Earlier this year, federal officials released several hundred families to relatives, church groups or other organizations due to statutory limitations on how long people can be held in custody.
“These people, they don’t speak English they don’t have any money, and they are in another country and they don’t have a cell phone to call their relatives,” said Magdalena Shwartz, who works with churches and ICE to help find places to stay until relatives can pick up those the government releases.
For families detained by immigration authorities, under a settlement agreement and subsequent decision, unaccompanied children or families can only be held in custody for 20 days before being released while their cases work their way through immigration courts.
Pastors at a church in Mesa said they recently received a call from ICE asking if the church could help at least one hundred people, who were dropped off Tuesday. Others were given a bus ticket and dropped off at a bus station near 24th Street and Buckeye.
“They don’t have another option,” Shwartz said. “They cannot keep the people detained there for a long time, because they are getting more people.”
Multiple attempts to seek comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday’s release were not returned.
Those who are ultimately granted asylum by a judge are allowed to stay, while those whose applications are denied will be deported.