MCALLEN, Texas — Approximately 30,000 people who illegally crossed the southern border and were taken into federal custody have been released into the United States since January as facilities for detaining migrants reach unprecedented overcapacity, according to the former top border official under the Trump administration.

Mark Morgan, the former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that the releases have been directly from Border Patrol and that people were not transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where families can be held for up to 20 days. Morgan said he was given the information by officials at the agency.

“You’re not going to find that anywhere because they’re locking down the information,” Morgan said of the figures in a conversation following a roundtable discussion with lawmakers, ranchers, medical officials, and business leaders in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No one is tested before being released, and federal authorities are relying on local nonprofit groups and governments to administer coronavirus tests, then quarantine people who test positive.

The Greyhound bus company earlier this month called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to come up with a way to guarantee that migrants seeking to board its buses from the border have tested negative for the coronavirus before being transported across the country. Migrants who are released rely on Greyhound and other bus companies to travel to their final destinations in the U.S.

The government’s no-testing policy continues despite all travelers at the Canadian and Mexican ports of entry being banned from entering the U.S. as a preventive measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That ban was put into effect in March 2020 and has been renewed every month for the past 12 months.

Federal law enforcement at the southern border last March began immediately turning away any person who was caught illegally coming over the border to avoid filling border stations with people amid the pandemic. However, in January, the Biden administration ordered agents not to turn away children who show up without parents or guardians. The majority of families are also not being turned away because Mexico does not have room in its shelters to accommodate people turned back, prompting the sudden influx of people over the past two months.

Federal facilities have subsequently become overwhelmed, and ICE does not have room to accept transfers from the Border Patrol. In one example, the Donna facility was said to be holding young girls more than 20 days before they were forwarded to the Department of Health and Human Services, and a lawmaker who toured it on Monday said it can only accommodate 250 people but had 5,700 people in its care.

During the influx of more than 500,000 children and family members in 2019, the Border Patrol began releasing people into the U.S. because the government had no way to hold them. In August 2019, Morgan, then the head of ICE, said 218,000 people were let go into the country.

Author: Anna Giaritelli

Source: Washington Examiner : Border Patrol has released 30,000 directly into US since January