EXCLUSIVE: Fox News confirmed Sunday that Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGV) have begun to process and release illegal border crossers who claim asylum without issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA) – allowing them to depart custody without scheduling a court date for a hearing.
The unprecedented move places the responsibility of seeking an asylum hearing on the migrants through Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or legal assistance.
Multiple Border Patrol agents confirmed the new process to Fox News, revealing that they have been directed to use prosecutorial discretion (PD) to forgo the hours-long process of paperwork required to issue an NTA amid the surge of migrants at the border.
Instead, migrants are registered into the system with biometrical data taken and largely released into the public – in one instance – at a bus station in McAllen, TX. The processing is being done mostly at a temporary outdoor processing site. Border Patrol agents emphasized that this does not apply to unaccompanied children.
A senior source with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told Fox News on Saturday that officials were considering the controversial move because the ongoing crisis on the border has “become so dire that BP [Border Patrol] has no choice but to release people nearly immediately after apprehension because there is no space to hold people even to do necessary NTA paperwork.”
The process of issuing each migrant an NTA can take hours per individual or family.
The decision comes as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to open another facility for unaccompanied child migrants in Pecos, Texas, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced Saturday.
The Temporary Influx Care Facility would house at least 500 unaccompanied minors to start, with the capacity to house 2,000 children.
“While ORR has worked to build up its licensed bed capacity to almost 13,500 beds, additional capacity is urgently needed to manage both enhanced COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the increasing numbers of UC referrals from DHS,” an ORR spokesperson said.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Alejandro Mayorkas said last week that border crossings were on track to be the highest in 20 years.
CBP announced it had encountered more than 100,000 migrants at the border in February, while numbers of child migrants in custody have also increased dramatically. The Biden administration has been moving to increase capacity of facilities to house migrants, and building a number of extra facilities — including looking at NASA sites and military bases.
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.