The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.
For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.
Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.
“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”
Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.
The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.
Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.
Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.
“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”
The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.
The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.
The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.
Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.
(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)
Migrant Child Dies In US Custody; 4th Since December
HOUSTON (AP) — A Guatemalan official says a 2½-year-old migrant child has died after crossing the border, becoming the fourth minor known to have died after being detained by the Border Patrol since December.
Tekandi Paniagua, the consul for Guatemala in Del Rio, Texas, said Wednesday that the boy had entered the United States with his parent at El Paso, Texas, in early April. Paniagua said the boy had a high fever and difficulty breathing, and authorities took him to a children’s hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
The boy remained hospitalized for about a month before dying Tuesday. The Washington Post first reported his death.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Advocates have long questioned the Border Patrol’s ability to care for the thousands of parents and children in its custody. The agency says it’s overwhelmed by the surge of migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Up To 70 Migrants Drown After Boat Capsizes Off Tunisia
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — As many as 70 migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya drowned Friday when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, and at least 16 other people from the boat were rescued, according to U.N. migration officials and Tunisia’s state news agency.
The International Organization for Migration called it the deadliest migrant boat sinking since January. The drownings happened as migrant arrivals to Europe are decreasing.
The smuggling boat left Libya on Thursday and sent a distress signal in international waters early Friday off the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, according to an IOM official in Tunisia and a statement from Tunisia’s Defense Ministry. Between 60 and 70 people drowned, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to give details about the emergency and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Three bodies have been recovered, the Defense Ministry said.
Tunisian state news agency TAP said 70 people drowned as the boat sank and that fishing boats rescued 16 others.
The survivors of the sinking are now being questioned and cared for by Tunisian authorities, the IOM official said. She said they included people from Bangladesh and Morocco, among other nationalities.
Joel Millman, an IOM spokesman in Geneva, said the reported death toll is the largest number of migrants killed since a Jan. 19 sinking in which 117 people were reported missing and presumed dead.
So far this year, 17,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea, about 30 percent fewer than the 24,000 arriving during the same period last year, according to the IOM. It said 443 people have reportedly died on dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossings so far this year, compared to 620 deaths for the same period in 2018.
Libya’s navy said Friday it rescued 213 Europe-bound African and Arab migrants off the Mediterranean coast this week. It said they were handed over to Libyan police after having received humanitarian and medical aid.
Lawless Libya in North Africa became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after an uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libyan authorities have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of migrants, with European assistance.
But human rights groups have strongly criticized Libya for its detention centers, saying migrants being sent back to Libya faced hunger, beatings, torture, rapes and a lack of medical care.
In addition, the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against the government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli last month. The U.N. health agency says 443 people have died, 2,110 have been wounded and nearly 60,000 have been displaced by the violence.
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