© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Migrants from Haiti cross the Zaragoza-Ysleta international border bridge after being deported from the United States, in Ciudad Juárez
By Mica Rosenberg and Frank Jack Daniel MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – US officials in Texas are releasing increasing numbers of Central American migrant families from custody as local authorities in Mexico have resisted retrieving them and the facilities Border Patrol members run the risk of becoming overcrowded. Two shelter managers told Reuters that the U.S. Border Patrol began dropping families last week at shelters in Laredo and Brownsville along the stretch of the border with the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the region most heavily frequented by illegal immigration to the United States. United. Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said the Border Patrol has sent 50 to 80 families to her shelter every day since Jan. 27, reaching 150 families Wednesday. Most stay briefly in shelters before connecting with family or friends in other parts of the United States, he said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that some migrants were being released into the United States to await immigration hearings, saying some detention facilities were at maximum safe capacity. A CBP source cited COVID-19 and a change in Mexican law among the factors that “have forced us to adapt.” Tamaulipas recently stopped accepting Central American families with children under the age of six expelled from Texas, a US source said. If Mexico does not agree to take the migrants, the US authorities must keep them in custody or release them until their immigration court hearings. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that there were “local” adjustments to the policy, citing the implementation of a child protection law passed late last year. A senior Mexican official said the changes were “minor adjustments” and appeared to be limited to Tamaulipas. If such changes were applied more broadly, US officials fear they could fuel already growing migration from Central America, as word spreads that not all families will be evicted. The administration of US President Joe Biden is trying to undo some tough rules from the Trump era without creating a rush on the border. Since a rule related to a pandemic in the US called Title 42 was implemented in March of last year, Mexico has agreed to allow the United States to turn around Central Americans caught crossing the border illegally, including families with children. But in November, Mexico added new protections for children to an immigration law that means that accompanied and unaccompanied minors sent back to Mexico must be placed in the care of the children’s services agency instead of immigration detention centers with Adults. The agency is underfunded and it is not immediately clear whether the law will be widely implemented or how it would affect migrant processing more broadly along the US-Mexico border. For now, the changes appeared to be tight and not implemented in other crowded sections of the border for migration, such as El Paso and San Diego, where families still return to Mexico, according to local shelter managers. ‘NO HONEY MOON’ Biden signed an executive order on February 2 to review asylum processing at the US border, but his administration has said changes to the current system will take time. With more migrant families arriving at the border, and some now being released to the United States, the Biden administration will not have a “honeymoon period” to launch new plans, said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy. at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “People are coming, you can’t stop everything while they create the new system,” he said. He said that Mexican cooperation will be key to any new policy planning. US data shows that through December of this fiscal year, US immigration authorities detained 5,175 families between Tamaulipas and Texas, more than anywhere else on the border, but less than in the same period last year. Overall, the numbers of border detentions have risen, above 70,000 in recent months and are expected to reach 80,000 in January. Experts attribute the increase in economic difficulties in Central America, hit by two major hurricanes and the pandemic, as well as expectations of a relaxed immigration policy under Biden. Advocates working in Tamaulipas say the Matamoros camp, primarily of asylum seekers off Brownsville, has risen to around 1,000 from 750 in December when migrants return from other parts of Mexico in the hope that they will be allowed to cross. . Sister Pimentel appreciated the reduction in the number of families returning to Mexico. Tamaulipas, for example, has a history of violence against migrants, including a massacre of 19 people in January. A dozen state police officers have been charged with the crime. “It is not a very human response to send them to Mexico with all the abuses they have to face. We have a better capacity to handle them,” he said. Another Texas shelter manager, Mike Smith, director of The Holding Institute in Laredo, said the families they had taken in recently reported that they had temperature checks for COVID-19 while in custody, but no tests for the coronavirus. Tests at his shelter returned three positive cases of COVID-19, he said. Since then, the shelter has run out of coronavirus testing and is trying to socially distance the migrants, Smith said.