Back in April, the Trump administration announced it would end the so-called “catch and release” practice. Under the program,asylum seekers are released into the community while they await a hearing from an immigration court. ICE agents continue to follow this system since they do not have enough room in their detention centers to keep the influx of people from the migrant caravan.
Hundreds of asylum seekers released near a Greyhound Station in El Paso, Texas between December 23rd and 26th were not given shelter, food nor money. They were only given a mandatory court date.
Ruben Garcia is the director of Annunciation House, a non-profit in El Paso that aims to protect immigrant rights. He was shocked after learning that all those immigrants were stranded without any notice to local organizations.
“You do not release people to the street, you do not release families to the street with small children, you simply do not do that.”
Usually organizations like “Annunciation House” get in touch with ICE, then, the agency will tell them how many immigrants are in need of a place to stay and these groups help them find a shelter. According to Garcia, recent changes have affected that system.
“If NGO’s that are able and willing to receive refugees cannot receive the numbers, that ICE needs to release, that they would release them to the street.”
After public outrage, ICE continues releasing hundreds of immigrants, but this time, they are informing non-profits. However, this situation is repeating itself at the San Ysidro border.
Mohamed Elnakib is an activist that works with “Bridge Of Love Across The Border,” an organization that has been raising funds and collecting goods to help families who were dropped off in San Diego.
“Some of the shelters in San Diego are basically at capacity, so they are unable to take in more people, and border patrol has no where to put them, so instead of having a back up plan or an emergency plan, they basically release them to the street,” Elnakib said.
Residents near the border have volunteered their time and energy to support this cause.
“Some have been opening up their own homes, paying for hotel rooms, […] helping the families figure out their transportation, helping them pay for their plane tickets, paying for their bus rides, putting them through TSA security,” he added.
Yesenia Morales and her two sons joined the migrant caravan. Morales said she fled the drug war in Mexico, and she stayed at a shelter in Tijuana two months ago. Her case was finally reviewed and after being detained for 5 days, she was released a week ago. Thanks to the support from activists, she is headed to Atlanta to meet with her relatives.
“I feel very grateful for running into these kind people,” Morales said.
Elnakib said it is hard for these families to navigate a system and a country they do not know.
“How can they navigate in the community when they are not 100% able to speak the language or interact with people and are not trusting because of all the trauma they endured,” Elnakib said.
In a tweet, President Donald J. Trump threatened to close the southern border entirely if no money is given to build the wall. Activists call on their political leaders to fix this border crisis.
“We need to have politicians that are vocal, educating others and instituting policies that will affect change,” Elnakib said.
Because of the government shutdown, there are no updated figures regarding the number of immigrants ice has released this past week.