Posted: Aug 1, 2013 7:32 PM
Updated: Aug 1, 2013 10:14 PM
WESLACO - Authorities are working to capture illegal immigrants, but is it in vain? CHANNEL 5 NEWS is exposing more flaws in the deportation system.
Dina Turcios is one of the people who wiggled past the feds. Her journey from Honduras led her to the Rio Grande. She crossed into the U.S. near the Hidalgo-Starr county line. She was moved to a stash house in Edinburg, which Border Patrol agents raided on April 3.
Border Patrol agents handed her off to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Four days later, she and a dozen others were set free at a Brownsville bus station.
ICE doesn't consider the group a major threat to our safety. They're considered a low priority.
ICE routinely releases illegal immigrants. It's a cost-cutting measure for detention facilities, like the one in Cameron County. Those set free can't commit crimes, must give ICE an accurate address and report to a deportation officer.
In the case of Turcios, she was supposed to meet with a deportation officer in Dallas on July 15 at 9 a.m. She told the feds she's staying with her uncle in Fort Worth.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS was at the Dallas ICE facility July 15 and there was no sign of Turcios. We went looking for her.
Turcios' aunt, Blanca Turcios, said she disappeared.
"This is the address she gave so she could get here. Her brother took her, and then her mom sent for her from New York," said Blanca Turcios.
She told us she didn't expect Turcios to return to Texas, since New York was her destination.
We did get Turcios' cell phone number. It's a number federal authorities don't have on file.
On the phone, Turcios said she's dealing with a lot.
"I still don't have a lawyer. That's why I haven't presented myself," she told us.
She admitted to lying to the feds. She said she'll deal with an immigration judge when she's ready. She couldn't tell us when.
Turcios said, "I have to go to court, but if the judge decides to send me back to my country, oh well."
A judge can order her to be deported, but ICE would have to hunt her down to send her home.
Are agents even looking? Dina Turcios could be one of thousands who saw an opportunity and ran.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS has shown you what it takes to catch illegal immigrants. There are chases, bailouts, stash houses and dangerous confrontations. Border Patrol agents spend hours tracking footprints in triple-digit temperatures.
People are captured only to be released. It's unclear just how many are released.
Three months ago we demanded answers from ICE. CHANNEL 5 NEWS filed several requests for public information. While ICE officials have released statements, we're still waiting for the information we requested.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS got the only numbers released by ICE so far.
About 2,226 illegal immigrants were set free nationwide in February;
622 are criminals. If ICE released that many illegal immigrants every month for a year, that would be more than 26,000 people.
ICE is pointing the finger at Congress for slicing its budget. Congress is firing back, demanding details and accountability. Meanwhile, the cycle of catch, detain and release continues.