Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona are having to catch and release illegal aliens into the community. The reason? Their processing center is overwhelmed with large numbers of families and minors, AZ Central reported. One processing center and three patrol stations in the sector can hold 400 aliens but they were designed to hold single adults for a short period of time. They weren't designed for long-term holding.
"U.S. Border Patrol processing centers are not designed to house the current numbers of families and small children that we are encountering," the Border Patrol's Yuma sector said in a written statement. "Due to capacity issues at our stations and the ongoing humanitarian crisis nationwide, Border Patrol has begun identifying detainees for potential release in Yuma with a notice to appear for their immigration hearings."
With the number of asylum claims on the rise, agents are forced to release family units with other family members in the United States. Those who claim asylum can't immediately be deported to their home country, which is playing into the backlog.
The Border Patrol agents in the Yuma sector have seen a 330 percent increase in apprehension compared to the same time period last year. So far in 2019, they've apprehended 17,578 aliens traveling as a family, compared to 5,319 aliens last year.
According to Carl Landrum, the Yuma sector's deputy chief, his agents are on pace to arrest 60,000 aliens this year, which is the highest since 2007, when the border wall was installed.
The caravans traveling from Central America have overwhelmed Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources. Normally, when an alien is arrested, they're handed off to ICE within 72 hours. ICE then determines whether the alien should be deported, hold them longer or release them to family in the United States.
"The sheer volume of family units (FAMU) crossing the border has overwhelmed ICE’s limited transportation resources," spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said in a statement. "Combined with a requirement to detain these individuals for no more than 20 days, the agency has no option but to expeditiously arrange for their release."
Various nonprofit groups in the area, like Catholic Charities of Southern Arizona, stepped up to temporarily house alien families who are being released.
“The full capacity of the (nonprofit groups) in Yuma cannot address the full volume of migrants, should the volume increase as projected," Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls said on Thursday.