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Thread: U.S. Plans to Step Up Detention and Deportation of Migrants

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    U.S. Plans to Step Up Detention and Deportation of Migrants

    New York Times

    Border Patrol agents processed a group of migrants from Honduras and Guatemala, mostly women and children, near McAllen, Tex., on Wednesday. Credit Jennifer Whitney for The New York Times

    McALLEN, Tex. — The Obama administration, stepping up efforts to reduce the influx of Central American migrants crossing the Southwest border illegally and saying that misinformation about its border policies may have helped spur it, will detain more of those migrants and accelerate their cases in immigration courts so they can be deported more quickly, officials said.

    To accommodate the change, Department of Homeland Security officials are rushing to open more detention centers intended for families with children, the officials said. And they will expand the use of monitoring devices, such as electronic ankle bracelets, to keep track of migrants after they are released.

    Immigration officers and judges will also be reassigned on an emergency basis to speed cases in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where most of the illegal migrants are entering into the United States.

    The move comes as the administration is trying to quell rampant rumors throughout Central America that American border authorities are offering entry permits to parents traveling with young children after they are caught. Officials hope that by increasing the numbers of migrants who are detained and then deported, others considering the trek may be dissuaded from doing so.

    Until now, White House officials have insisted that extreme poverty and an epidemic of criminal gang violence were the main causes of the surge in illegal immigration that has brought nearly 200,000 migrants to South Texas this year. They resisted criticism by Republican lawmakers in Congress who said lax border enforcement had unleashed the surge.

    But many migrants told Border Patrol agents they decided to set out for this country after hearing the United States was offering some kind of entry permit. Many migrants who asked for asylum after being apprehended have been allowed to stay temporarily, further fueling hopes that Central Americans were receiving special treatment. White House officials are now moving to address those issues directly.

    “Misperceptions of how we apply our immigration policies” were among the factors driving the surge, Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House domestic policy council, said.

    “This is a very dangerous trip that people are taking,” Ms. Muñoz said. “People are putting their children in the hands of smugglers, in the hope or misperception they would be allowed to stay. It’s very unlikely that would be true.”

    White House officials will announce the new measures at midday Friday, as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is meeting in Guatemala with top leaders of the three Central American countries sending most migrants — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — to secure their help in conveying the message there are no new opportunities to come legally to the United States.

    The sharp increase of illegal migrants in recent months includes more than 47,000 minors traveling without their parents. President Obama, saying the surge in youths had created a humanitarian crisis, has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate an effort to maintain detention shelters for them and help reunite them with relatives in this country.

    The flow also includes unprecedented numbers of parents coming with children, some as young as toddlers. The new measures are focused on those migrants.

    “We are taking next steps to address the overall surge,” Ms. Muñoz said.

    Since there are no detention facilities for families in the Rio Grande Valley, the Border Patrol has been releasing them without bond, allowing them to travel to relatives living in the United States with only an order to appear in immigration court for deportation hearings.

    Migrants unfamiliar with the American system have been confusing the notice to appear in court, the immigration equivalent of an indictment, with a permit to stay in the United States. The migrants, mainly women with children, have been sending word back to Central America that they received a permit — in Spanish, a “permiso” — to remain here, prompting more to embark on the journey across Mexico.

    The Department of Homeland Security currently has only one facility to hold families, in Berks County, Pa. Officials said they will open more centers for families as soon as they can find buildings that meet federal requirements for detaining children.

    In the short term, border authorities will be formally tracking many more migrants who are released from here.

    Ankle bracelets that allow enforcement agents to track migrants at all times will be more broadly used, officials said. The release of large numbers of migrants has raised doubts whether they would appear for their court hearings.

    The administration is also sending more immigration officers who specialize in asylum cases to the Rio Grande Valley, to make quicker initial determinations on whether they are fleeing persecution and might be eligible for protection here. Immigration judges will be reassigned on an emergency basis to hear asylum petitions and other cases of migrants in detention, Justice Department officials said.

    Few if any migrants apprehended in South Texas have said to Border Patrol officers or lawyers that they were drawn by news of a possible immigration overhaul by Congress that might legalize immigrants currently living in the United States illegally, or by a program, recently renewed by the Obama administration, that gives protection from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who grew up in this country.

    This week parents bringing their children have been streaming across the Rio Grande river. In daylight hours, smugglers ferried them across on rafts and even jet-skis. Agents here have apprehended two groups of more than 200 migrants traveling together.

    One evening this week, in the space of an hour, Border Patrol agents patroling less than a mile of the river bank came across more than 30 migrants, including more than a dozen small children. In sweltering heat over 100 degrees, weary women pulling children barely old enough to walk said they had become lost hours earlier in the thorny brush along the river. They were relieved when they saw the Border Patrol agents, having heard that could be the first step toward receiving a permit.

    Near fainting, they gulped water the agents provided, and sat quietly while agents took their names, hopeful that the long journey was finally paying off.
    Correction: June 20, 2014

    An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration detention facility for families with children. It is in Berks County, Pa., not Bucks, Pa.
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    The proof is in the puddin'. Words from anyone in this administration are as good as a three dollar bill.
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