SAN ANTONIO — Facing pressure to address a widening crisis on the Southwest border, the Obama administration announced new measures Friday to detain, process and ultimately deport the growing numbers of Central American children and families who already are overwhelming most existing federal detention facilities.
The Department of Homeland Security said it is rushing additional lawyers, asylum officers and immigration judges to the Texas border, where most of the new immigrants are arriving, to process cases more quickly and reduce the large numbers of those who must be released with promises to appear at later court hearings.
“We are surging resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults with children, and to handle immigration court hearings,” Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a Friday briefing.
So far this fiscal year, more than 39,000 adults have been caught crossing the Southwest border with children. An additional 52,000 unaccompanied children had been detained as of last week, and by year’s end officials expect that number to have increased to as many as 90,000.
With shelters and detention centers already overcrowded, many new immigrants have been released to sponsors and family members with orders to appear for hearings later, prompting critics to say that many will elect to quietly remain within the U.S. The Department of Justice reported that 33 percent of immigrants released in such cases in fiscal year 2013 failed to appear for subsequent hearings, up from 24 percent in 2009.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called for deploying an additional 1,000 National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border, along with Lakota helicopters and Predator drones. “The safety and security of our border communities is being threatened by this flood of illegal immigration, and the crisis worsens by the day,” the Republican said in a letter asking President Barack Obama to travel to Texas to address the issue.