A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle patrols on watch at a border fence along a South Texas border in the Rio Grande Valley, where agents were reportedly instructed to release some migrants without a date to appear in court. File Photo courtesy Customs and Border Patrol
March 22 (UPI) -- U.S. border agents at the Texas epicenter of a migrant surge have been authorized to release some adults and families before they receive a date to appear in immigration court, documents show.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials instructed agents in the Rio Grande Valley -- where more than 5,000 immigrants are in custody -- to release migrants who had not yet been given court dates if facilities reached 100% capacity, among other criteria, according to an internal document obtained by NBC News.
Immigrants determined to pose a risk to national security or public safety, however, were not authorized for release from Border Patrol custody, the document showed, while unaccompanied migrant children were not to be released under any circumstances until connected with a family member or another vetted sponsor.
Axios reported that Rio Grande Valley agents have released about 150 migrants without giving them court dates.
"In some cases, families are placed in removal proceedings further along in the release process rather than while they are at the border patrol station," a unnamed Department of Homeland Security official told the website.
"All families, however, are screened at the border patrol station, including the collection of biographical and biometric information and criminal and national security records checks."
Some of the released immigrants told NBC they were asked by U.S. border agents for contact information, given documents with a "to be determined" court date and told they would be contacted within 30 days.
Others said they were only given identification documents which they were told to provide law enforcement if they were stopped within the United States.
Roberta Jacobson, special assistant to President Joe Biden and coordinator for the southwest border, was to travel to Mexico Monday "to engage with Mexican government officials to develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration," National Security Council representative Emily Horne said in a statement.
Jacobson was to be joined by Juan Gonzalez, president and senior director for the Western Hemisphere who will then travel to Guatemala to meet with government officials and representatives from civil society and non-government organizations to "address the root causes of migration in the region and build a more hopeful future in the region."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to call the influx of migrants a "crisis" during a press briefing and said the White House is working with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to provide access to footage from inside the facilities.
"Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis," said Psaki. "We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated with and put into conditions that are safe."