LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, TX — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has taken the unusual step of flying hundreds of illegal immigrants apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley to Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio. From there, the illegal immigrants are transported in buses to CBP Del Rio Sector locations for processing.
In a front-page article Sunday by Karen Gleason at the Del Rio News-Herald, a CBP press release was quoted that stated those transported are “non-criminal alien family units.”
The processing facilities in the CBP Rio Grande Valley Sector that includes Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen and Rio Grande City are so overwhelmed the CBP is taken the unusual step of airlifting illegal immigrant detainees to the neighboring Del Rio Sector for processing, the CBP told the Washington Post.
The Del Rio Sector extends from Terrell County to Maverick County along the Texas-Mexico border, and from the border north to Abilene. San Angelo is located inside the Del Rio Sector.
After processing, the illegal immigrants will be released into the communities “throughout the sector” where these detainees were bused to various processing centers, states the CBP press release quoted in the News-Herald.
According to Flight Aware, and online air traffic tracking platform, two flights have arrived at Laughlin AFB from Brownsville this weekend. The first McDonnell Douglas MD-82 landed at Laughlin at 5:25 p.m. Friday. A second landed Saturday at 4:02 p.m. The flights were chartered by CBP with World Atlantic Airlines.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that the flights can hold 135 people and cost the taxpayers $16,000 for each flight.
Carla L. Provost, Chief of CBP, testified before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration in Washington D.C. May 8. In her prepared statement, she said the CBP conducted 3,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants per day along the entire U.S –Mexico Border in March 2019. The Washington Post reported Saturday that number has increased to 5,500 per day for several days in a row this past week.
On the Southwest border, the short-term holding facilities for housing migrant detainees awaiting processing traditionally house about 4,000 detainees at peek times. Provost said that 6,000 detainees in the holding facilities are considered a crisis. “In this fiscal year, CBP already experienced more than 14,000 detainees in custody in a single day,” she told the Senate Subcommittee last week.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that number has exceeded 17,500 detainees.
In Del Rio last month, the Del Rio Sector’s Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz said illegal immigrants-turned-asylum-seekers were being dropped off daily at transportation centers in Del Rio and Eagle Pass. Those released into the U.S. are primarily family units, he said. From bus stations, the asylum-seekers travel on their own expense to locations throughout the U.S. to stay with family or friends while they await their court date to determine their asylum status. Between 2000 and 2013, less than one percent of apprehensions involved a claim of political asylum, said Provost. In FY 2018, “just shy of 93,000 people claimed a fear of return while in CBP custody—a record number of claims,” she said.
In FY 2017, according to the Department of Justice Yearbook, the numbers of grants for asylum are low. From El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, countries of origin for the majority of the asylum claimants apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border this year, 1,355, 951, and 955 immigrants were granted asylum respectively. This totals 3,261.
China was the top origin county for asylum grants in 2017 with 2,794.
For more on how the current illegal immigration crisis in impacting the Del Rio Sector, see America’s Open Door.