US mass release of migrants into streets without warning ‘Unacceptable’ – Shelter Director

El Paso, Dec 28: The US Government mass releasing migrant families out into the streets without warning shelters is unacceptable, the Texas-based Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia said in a press conference.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released an estimated total of 1,330 migrants onto the streets with no money or food in the Texas border city of El Paso from Sunday through Wednesday without any warning to shelters.
“I think that it is important to state that it is unacceptable to release families with children, some of them very young children, to the street,” Garcia said on Thursday.
“That, we have to say, is non-negotiable. That’s simply not acceptable.” Moreover, Garcia said ICE must coordinate with Non-governmental organizations, the Annunciation House, churches and elected officials to come up with a plan to prevent families from being released to the street. Garcia called on ICE and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to commit themselves to ensure migrant families will never again be released onto the streets.
The Annunciation House and ICE have a record of pre-planning the orderly release of families into the hospitality network in El Paso. However, Garcia pointed out that there was a policy change in the US immigration system in October that allowed the release of migrants onto the streets because of capacity issues within their own agencies even if shelters are not prepared to meet the demand.
In light of the deaths of two Guatemalan migrant children while in CBP custody this month, Garcia pointed out that some migrant families he has talked to informed him they were held in CBP holding cells anywhere from five days up to 11 days. The holding cells are small and overcrowded, he added. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a number of changes after the death of the second migrant child which included CBP conducting secondary medical checks of all children in the agency’s care and custody. Garcia said he does not expect these changes to take effect immediately after migrants released Wednesday indicated that their children had not gone through any other additional medical screening. Garcia highlighted that shelters must address the potential need to request aid from the city if at some point the numbers of released migrants are so high they are unable to meet their capacity. At this point they are not there yet, he added. Garcia noted it has cost them $150,000 to house migrants at four different hotels in El Paso. US customs officials were not available to comment due to a partial shutdown of the federal government that went into effect Saturday after Congress failed to reach a compromise over a spending bill. The key sticking point has been US President Trump’s demand and the Democrats refusal to include $5 billion in the budget to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is expected to visit the border in light of the death of two Guatemalan migrant children this month while in CBP custody.



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