Prolonged Processing Times Persist at CBP RGV Facilities

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BROWNSVILLE - Fewer migrants are in federal custody in the Rio Grande Valley, but there are recent lawsuits highlighting problems with the 72-hour processing deadline.

These problems are one of the main focuses in an ongoing federal injunction filed against CBP in the Rio Grande Valley. 

Migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection go into processing.

Under the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search, or TEDS, dictates, "Detainees should generally not be held for longer than 72 hours in CBP hold rooms or holding facilities." 

At the height of the influx, when families began being released from CBP custody in mass numbers to alleviate crowding in Rio Grande Valley facilities, Channel 5 News and the Monitor queried 100 migrants

The study found 62 of the 100 immigrants were held for five days or more. One person was in custody for 10 days.

In that time, relatives waiting to hear from their family members in Border Patrol custody grew concerned, as CBP is not required to grant phone privileges to migrants in their care.

Concerned relatives turn to immigration attorneys like Manuel Solis.

He describes what families usually experience. "About a week, two weeks later, they are really worried and upset.

They're thinking they got hurt, and which really could be a possibility," says Solis.

When relatives want to know if their family members are in CBP custody, they have Solis file a writ of habeas corpus.

It's a legal document asking the government to produce the person. As a result of that lawsuit, CBP will normally send the migrant requested to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention.

Under ICE custody, they receive a tracking numbers and can call family. 

The lawsuits are a common process. Solis explains, "So, we file it. They transfer them. We dismiss the lawsuit. So, we file it. They transfer them. We dismiss the lawsuit."

The process was more common when CBP was overwhelmed with migrants over the summer. 

The Rio Grande Valley Sector developed a way to address it by creating the "Interim Guidance on Enhanced Amenities for Border Patrol Detainees." 

The guidance became effective August 22, 2019. Under it, detainees who are in their custody longer than 72-hours are eligible to receive certain services like the ability to make phone calls.

That guidance would keep writs of habeas corpus from being filed, but Solis filed two of these in the last week

These are issues that matter in a pending federal court lawsuit.

Plaintiffs filed July 20, 2019 asking a federal judge in Brownsville to order CBP to improve conditions and process migrants within 72 hours. 

CBP officials told the judge that would be pointless, because their guidance already address those issues. The writs recently filed suggest issues with processing persist.

CHANNEL FIVE NEWS reached out to Border Patrol asking why even though there is a drop in apprehensions what circumstances would prompt a prolonged processing.

They sent a statement reading:

"The Border Patrol remains dedicated to providing adequate care to adults and children in our custody. The interim guidance is a means to standardize and memorialize our processes and procedures in dealing with populations in our processing centers."

The statement did not answer the question. 

The Brownsville federal judge is still mulling over the decision whether to impose the injunction on CBP. 


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