Posted: Mar 25, 2014 6:44 PM
Updated: Mar 25, 2014 6:44 PM
HARLINGEN - Federal officials are releasing women and children who enter the country illegally, a CHANNEL 5 NEWS investigation revealed.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported in 2013 that the feds were releasing anyone deemed a low threat to national security.
Border Patrol officials on Friday confirmed a spike in illegal crossings in the Rio Grande Valley. The agency reassigned agents to the region to deal with the increase in crossings.
A CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew on Monday found a group of women and children at a bus station in Harlingen. The group had just been released from Border Patrol custody.
"I feel very happy, because other mothers can't do this," said Mari Jimenez, a Guatemalan national.
Jimenez and her 2-year-old daughter, Marlifer, prepared to board a bus. The single mother said she carried her baby from Guatemala to the border.
Federal officials gave the woman documents that allow her to travel anywhere in the United States.
"Thanks to the authorities who gave us this chance to see our families," Jimenez said.
Hermilia Maria Ortiz Moran, a Guatemalan national, said detention centers are overcrowded.
Border Patrol officials said most of the immigrants crossing the border come from countries other than Mexico. They said some of those immigrants are sent to Laredo or Del Rio for processing. Still, many are being released.
The immigrants get documents that indicate what they can and can't do during their stay in the United States.
Ortiz and her three children are scheduled to appear before a deportation officer on May 27, in Hartford, Conn.
"First and foremost, I have to thank God and ask him if there are any opportunities for work, I will work. Just as long as the permission allows us to," Ortiz said.
The papers she got from officers prohibit her from working. They also must not commit any crimes. They must report any change of address to federal officials.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported in July, 2013, about the flaws in the deportation system.
Dina Turcios was released at a Brownsville bus station in April, 2013. She was supposed to report to the feds in Dallas, but that didn't happen. Turcios skipped town and moved to New York City.
It's unclear if federal officials ever found Turcios. It's also unclear how many others have disappeared into U.S. cities after their release.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS contacted Border Patrol officials about the group at the Harlingen bus station. They confirmed the women and children were all illegal immigrants.
The agency issued the following statement about the releases:
"In an effort to maximize resources and focus on the uptick in apprehensions, RGV Border Patrol Sector has begun implementing several steps. These efforts include, transporting detainees to other sectors within the South Texas Campaign AOR, temporary reassignment of agents from other sectors into RGV and temporarily issuing a notice to appear for immigration hearings to family units posing no threat to national security," the statement read.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to legislators for comment about the releases. Congressman Henry Cuellar issued the following statement:
"As a Congressman representing the border, and someone who has breathed the air and drank the water of the region for his whole life, I will be the first one to say that we need to do everything we can to secure the border in a smart way and enforce our immigration laws. Law enforcement prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and law enforcement agents are doing their best to detain criminals that pose a risk to our communities. Agents are doing their best to keep our border secure with limited resources and I commend law enforcement agents for their commitment to keeping our families safe."