As US immigration agencies processing the historic surge of illegal migrants crossing the southern border struggle to handle the crowds, it has been revealed that the Biden administration has been depositing "numerous" migrants deep into the US. Migrants have been released into US cities like Chicago, Denver, and New York City, far from the southern border.
According to Fox News, government-contracted planes are reportedly transporting migrants into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices around the country, with many of these migrants later being released in those locations.
The flights, made by major government contractor iAero Airways, are flying these migrants around the country to ICE facilities, as well as to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for children. What is known as "ICE Air" is the primary way that migrants are being transported around the US.
The migrants released after taking these flights are believed to be number into the tens of thousands of individuals.
Former ICE Buffalo Field Office Director Tom Feeley alleged that ICE headquarters are pressuring local field offices, which have limited capacity, to release a number of migrants to make more space for individuals being flown from the border.
"It's happening on a grand scale," Feeley said. "They're getting pounded every day fielding calls from headquarters about who they can release to make room for more people on the border. And the following week, they're getting more calls almost daily, again, about who can you release to make room for more people on the border."
"So basically all we're doing is we're catching them at the border, shipping them into the interior, releasing them and getting more and then releasing them and then getting more and releasing them," Feeley added.
"It's a lot like a hotel chain. You know ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) can tell how many beds are open at a current facility, and then the people in charge of that aircraft will reach out to the office and say, 'You know what, you have a hundred beds open, we're going to send you a hundred illegal aliens,'" Feeley said.
Feeley noted that this process is " just another version of catch and release, but on a grander scale." He alleged that the headquarters is using "fear and intimidation" to force local field offices to "play the game."
Fox News examined publicly available flights flown by iAero, which revealed regular flights between airports at major immigration hubs along the southern border to cities far in the interior of the US like Harrisburg, Yakima, New York City and Minneapolis.
When asked about the influx of flights of migrants to their Chicago Field Office, ICE confirmed that migrants were being released from its detention facilities in the area.
"U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seen an increase in the number of migrants who entered from the U.S. southern border being sent to offices throughout the United States, including Chicago. Custody determinations are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security policy and entail consideration of the merits and factors of each case while also adhering to current agency priorities, guidelines and legal mandates," an ICE spokesperson said.
"Furthermore, when making custody determinations, ICE considers a variety of factors, including an individual's criminal record, immigration history, ties to the community, health and rehabilitation efforts. Over the past several weeks, ICE has released numerous immigrants who transferred from the border after determining they could safely be released into the community under alternate forms of supervision," the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson said that ICE ensures that those migrants released from their facilities have support plans in place, and said that they are coordinating with nongovernmental organizations to support those released.
Feeley also outlined a process in which CBP is placing migrants on ICE flights and sending them to immigrations centers in Tucson, San Diego and El Paso, where the migrants remain in CBP custody rather than ICE custody. They are then processed by ERO, and released.
He noted that nearly 23,000 migrants were released through this process between March and August.
"CBP in the Rio Grande Valley is placing illegal aliens that have just arrived on ICE aircraft, keeping them in CBP custody, and shipping them to other cities still in CBP custody – and then being processed by ERO personnel who are being detailed and not doing their interior law enforcement duties," Feeley said. "And then those illegal aliens are being released into the United States."
Feeley said the arrangement is unusual, but a source told Fox that a similar arrangement was struck briefly during the migrant surge of 2019, but to a less grand of a scale. The CBP confirmed the arrangement, but stressed that the border is still closed.
"Several Border Patrol Sectors have seen a significant increase in encounters in recent months. In order to process individuals as safely and expeditiously as possible, unprocessed individuals may be transported via air or ground transportation to other Sectors along the Southwest border," the spokesperson said. "The operational need for these sector-to-sector transfers is assessed daily based on the processing capability and facility capacity of each sector and not by external influences."
"The border is not open and CBP is still operating under Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. CBP is making every effort to remain within CDC guidelines and mitigate long periods of processing and holding to minimize potential exposure to our workforce, those in custody, and the community. Once processing is complete, these individuals will be expeditiously transferred out of CBP custody," the spokesperson added.