Brownsville City Manager Noel Bernal said Friday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection told him that approximately 5,600 migrants would be released in Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen over the next few days.
“That’s the total number we are aware of and are preparing to process to handle,” Bernal said.
The mass releases began last week in McAllen and started in Brownsville on Tuesday. The releases followed comments by U.S. Border Patrol Sector Chief Agent Rodolfo Karisch who said on Wednesday that the releases were necessary because the Rio Grande Valley Sector’s resources are “overwhelmed and over-stretched.”
The 5,600 estimate became public in Brownsville the same day President Donald Trump threatened to close the border next week.
“If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the border, or large sections of the Border, next week,” Trump said in a series of Twitter posts.
On Friday, Bernal said Border Patrol released around 300 people into Brownsville — an increase from the past two days where the releases totaled around 130 on Thursday and Wednesday.
However, there was a new dynamic Friday, Bernal said, explaining that 19 people released in Brownsville were running fevers and were treated at the hospital and released.
Mayor Tony Martinez said Border Patrol is not allowed to release sick migrants into the public.
“That’s one of my biggest concerns in the sense of when they detain someone and they are either believed to be ill or show symptoms of illness, the law requires them to provide medical assistance before they release them into the general public,” Martinez said.
A Border Patrol spokesperson on Friday said that the agency’s policy is not to release sick migrants into the community, but said when someone has an illness like the flu, they might not show symptoms at the time of their release.
As for the mass releases, Border Patrol has said large numbers of family units are overwhelming the agency.
Since last October, the start of the 2019 fiscal year, CBP has detained 136,150 family units, with numbers in February rising more than 200 percent compared to the same month in 2018, with 18,788 being detained in February 2018 compared to 58,032 being detained last month, according to CBP statistics.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector accounted for 14,448 family units being detained by CBP.
Karla Vargas, a senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, however, said she was skeptical that Border Patrol’s processing facility in McAllen was at capacity because migrants she has interviewed at the bus station and McAllen have reported being held for seven to eight days before being released.
“They are stockpiling people and then they are doing these mass releases,” Vargas said.