Reporters Revolt As Obama Officials Stonewall On Aliens Released From Custody
With illegal immigrants streaming across the southern border, senior Obama administration officials couldn't provide reporters specific information about how many have been released from custody into the U.S. on a conference call with reporters Monday, prompting frustration from the 4th Estate.
The call was on “background,” which means that the government officials providing the information can be quoted, but not by name, a fact that didn't sit well with the first questioner. “First can somebody explain why it's on background, considering last week, [name redacted], you were on the record?” a reporter asked.
“But second can you guys discuss in greater detail the number of families, total number of people who have been released from ICE custody on notices to appear and how many have actually reported as directed,” the reporter added.
The senior administration official said background calls are conducted “all the time,” but didn't have any new information about the second question.
Later in the call, the questions became more insistent.
“I’ve been asking for more than a week now for numbers in regard to parents with children who are coming through, who are from Central America and we still haven’t heard anything. And I am wondering, why the hold up?” asked a second reporter.
“We don’t have information for you … on the numbers of families at the moment,” an administration official answered.
A third reporter followed-up: “I have been asking for similar statistics. I’ve been waiting several days now. Trying to quantity how many of these children are ending up by state, including Georgia. For example, how many of children are receiving special juvenile status can you break that down by state? The same thing for ICE authorities how many children are ICE encountering in each state or at least nationally who are evading the border authorities?”
A senior administration official said she did not have that data.
The Obama administration has however been updating the Customs and Border Protection website with numbers of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors crossing the border.
Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration would not disclose how many illegal immigrants have been released into the United States amid a recent spike in illegal migration — compounded by a surge in unaccompanied illegal immigrant children — through Texas.
The influx is so overwhelming the Border Patrol the government has taken to transporting illegal immigrants to Arizona and releasing them with instructions to report back to the government within 15 days.
In a recent internal draft memo, Deputy Chief of Border Patrol Ronald D. Vitiello suggested that this policy could serve to further lure more illegal immigrants across the border.
“Releasing other than Mexican family units, credible fear claims, and low-threat aliens on their own recognizance, along with facilitating family reunification of [unaccompanied alien children] in lieu of repatriation to their country of citizenship, serve as incentives for additional individuals to follow the same path,” Vitiello wrote.
Monday’s conference call with senior administration officials focused on the surge of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children at the border, which to date have seen a 92 percent increase over last year.
The senior officials stressed that despite conversations that current policies and possible immigration legislation has generated rumors driving more illegal immigration to the United States, neither the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or the Senate-passed immigration reform bill would apply to the current surge of largely children from Central American countries coming into the United States illegally.
Instead they argued that the children are fleeing violence and bad circumstances in their own countries.
Nevertheless, the administration officials stressed the need for immigration reform legislation from the House to fix the system.
They further argued if such rumors were the cause of the surge there would be similar increases in children coming from Mexico and other countries.
The senior officials noted that the increase in illegal immigration is largely occurring in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the border but said that while they had been preparing for an increase in illegal immigration by children over previous years, just not to the extent that has been happening. They further reiterated news about requests over $2 billion from appropriators to support HHS facilities coping with the unaccompanied minors and about $160 million for additional support for DHS.
They concluded the call by noting that the Obama administration has been in communication with the governments of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to help stem the tide.