Sergeant Robert Gomez, the spokesman of the El Paso Police Department, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers dropped a group of 200 undocumented immigrants at a Greyhound bus terminal in the city without a plan for their housing.
Officials at the bus terminal alerted the police of the group around 8 in the evening, when some of the migrants tried to board buses without tickets.
“All of a sudden a bunch of people show up; ICE drops them off,” said Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker. “We weren’t expecting it. We are not given prior notice.”
Gomez noted that many people had to stay outside the terminal’s waiting area as it is small and couldn’t accommodate everyone. Among the 211 undocumented immigrants there were small children, he added.
A bit later the group boarded four busses sent to keep them warm.
“We weren’t going to put 200 people on the streets of El Paso on a cold night. We wouldn’t do that,” Gomez pointed out, adding that housing was later provided for the immigrants.
ICE later sent an email in which it explained that the government’s options to remove families who are in the United States illegally have been limited by years of congressional inaction on the issue.
“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border,” read the statement, which did not specifically refer to the Sunday night incident in El Paso. “ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”
Representative Beto O’Rourke wrote on Twitter that ICE said it would release more migrants on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We’re trying to ensure that ICE gives the community notice next time when they know that there’s not going to be space in existing migrant shelters, to give the community 24 hours heads up so that we can find hotel rooms, beds, alternative shelters, food, volunteers — everything that these people will need to make sure that they are OK,” O’Rourke said.