Artesia mayor: 95 percent of families of illegals being released

Almost all of the illegal immigrant families traveling from Central America to the U.S. are being released from the special facility meant to hold them in New Mexico, according to the mayor of the town where the special facility is located.

Mayor Phillip S. Burch told KSVP radio in Artesia, New Mexico, last week that the releases defy Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s own pledge in July to make sure those who ended up at the facility were quickly deported from the U.S.

Instead, of 82 illegal immigrants released in one week earlier this month, 77 were let go into the U.S., and just five were deported, Mr. Burch said, citing numbers from his weekly briefing he has with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who run the facility.

“That seems like the way the numbers have gone over the past 6 weeks,” the mayor said in the radio interview. “The past six weeks there’s a 95 percent release rate.”

“I keep thinking of Secretary Johnson’s comments when he visited here in July when it was first starting to get going. He described Artesia as going to be a ‘rapid deportation’ site,” Mr. Burch said. “Now you have a 95 percent rate of release which says to me this isn’t happening just by accident — that this administration plans to basically do a big amnesty announcement, and so year, get ‘em all released in here and they’ll all get amnesty and they’ll all stay.”

ICE officials did not provide a comment for this story.

The Artesia facility was set up during this summer’s border surge, which saw tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children traveling alone, as well as tens of thousands of family units, come from Central America, fleeing economic troubles and gang violence and hoping to take advantage of lax deportation policies in the U.S.

At the time, Homeland Security officials had fewer than 100 beds to hold family members together, so they opened several new facilities, including one at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia.

Mr. Johnson said at the time that the goal was to hold illegal immigrants and deport them quickly, hoping to send a message back to Central America that coming to the U.S. wouldn’t result in a free pass, or “permiso,” as those in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador called it.

Illegal immigrant children traveling alone, however, were not detained. Instead, under the Obama administration’s interpretation of U.S. law they were sent to live in special housing or, more often, with relatives already in the U.S. — many of them likely here illegally.

The latest numbers suggest that Homeland Security officials did have success in halting much of the flow across the border.

In July, 7,436 family units were caught at the southwest border. That dropped to 3,286 in August, 2,303 in September and just 2,163 in October.

Illegal immigrant children caught along the border traveling alone dropped from 10,508 in June to 2,414 in September before ticking back up again in October to 2,529.

But handling the illegal immigrant children and families once they are in the U.S. has been more of a challenge.

The Artesia facility has reported problems with communicable diseases — cases of chicken pox shut the facility down over the summer — and with sanitation, after some of the families had difficulty figuring out how to use the toilets, according to an inspector general’s report.

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