Around 600,000 migrants who crossed the United States’ border with Mexico in March 2021 were reportedly released into the country without being charged or given a date to appear in court, NBC News reported. The latest report comes as thousands of migrants have been dropped from the program that was intended to track them.
According to NBC News, the practice came out of necessity as border-crossing numbers toppled previous records, making it a breaking point from the protocol of past administrations. In the past, the U.S. government required migrants to have charging documents with a court date by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after they were apprehended.
The lack of charging documents left migrants across the U.S. in legal trouble without a court date to determine whether they can legally stay in the states, according to legal officials. Many are unable to work and unaware that they are passing their one-year eligibility deadline to apply for asylum in the U.S.
According to immigration lawyers, many clients walk into their offices confused and wondering what the next step should be for legal residence.
“A lot of the people who are here, they really urgently want to seek asylum. They want their case heard as soon as possible. They do not want to be in limbo,” said Karlyn Kurichety, legal director of Al Otro Lado, a migrant advocacy organization, to NBC News.
In March 2021, as the number of illegal migrants arriving at the southern border surged, the CBP released migrants with what was known as the “Notice to Report,” telling them to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE), instructing migrants when to appear in court to determine if they could be deported or given protections to remain legally in America.
In July of last year, ICE started a new program called the Parole Plus Alternatives to Detention or Parole Plus ATD, allowing them to be released without charging documents while their whereabouts were tracked with ankle monitors through an app or telephonically.
Between March 2021 and January of this year, more than 800,000 illegal migrants were released on Notices to Report or Parole Plus ATD, with around 214,000 issued charging documents with court dates, according to data provided by NBC News. Roughly 588,000 did not know when or where to report for their asylum hearings.
In March 2021, NBC News and other media outlets reported that border agents in Rio Grande Valley were told to release migrants without court dates, as border processing centers were overcrowded and unable to process the files of unaccompanied children arriving.
According to document instructions, border agents were ordered to release migrants without charging documents, saying that the move was “intended to mitigate operational challenges, including risks to national security, during significant surges of illegal migration as currently exist in the Rio Grande Valley.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded the practice to include the entire border. The DHS has maintained that migrants released without required charging documents would have court dates at ICE offices.
Various immigration attorneys and legal experts were shocked and surprised to see clients coming into their offices with a “Notice to Report” document instead of a “Notice to Appear” charging document, saying that it leads to more confusion and chaos in the legal process.
In a statement to NBC News, a DHS spokesman stated, “If a Notice to Appear (NTA) is unavailable, insufficient, or in need of correction at the time of the immigration court hearing, it is a regular practice to correct the deficiency and resubmit, or issue a new NTA so that cases may resume and migrants can continue with their obligation to appear before an immigration court at a later date.”
Following the election of Joe Biden as President in 2020, illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. has increased dramatically, with minors and drug cartels crossing into states and straining state resources. In response to the ongoing crisis, members of Congress have called on the administration and officials at DHS to strengthen the southern border and take the issue more seriously.