EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — An additional 186 migrants were released in downtown El Paso by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Christmas Day. That’s in addition to the approximately 400 who that were released in the last two days.
Local nonprofits tell us the key difference Tuesday is that they were notified by ICE that a mass release would take place again during the day, something that Rep. Beto O’Rourke said didn’t happen previously.
As a result, nonprofits were a bit more prepared for the large intake.
“They’re coming from immigration cells so they’re coming hungry, they’re coming thirsty, most haven’t bathed in a long time. The situation is really difficult for them,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute.
ICE said in a statement earlier this week the mass release was to ensure families were not detained longer than the time frame permitted - families including "Ingrid" and her 4-year-old son. She tells CBS4 she was surprised by the help she received after being released.
“Never could I have imagined getting here and being welcomed with food. In fact he was crying that he was hungry. Honestly, it just feels unreal,” Ingrid said.
Ingrid is a Honduran asylum seeker. She agreed to an interview but we’re not using her last name.
She and the other 185 immigrants released Tuesday by ICE were dropped off at a downtown El Paso bus station. Then, they were led by volunteers to a makeshift headquarters at Rock House Cafe and Gallery, a block away.
“This is what it is to give, this is what it is to receive people into your home and cherish time with other people,” said Michael Patino, owner of Rock House Cafe and Gallery.
After receiving approximately 400 immigrants since Sunday, this has become the third day in a row local nonprofits have had to react to sudden mass releases. But this time, they were ready.
El Pasoans prepared food and served the dozens of hungry families.
“We made something for them for breakfast. We went to buy some bread and my sister went to her closet to look for things that we could give away. We are here to give what we have,” Michaelle Sanchez said.
Sanchez is an immigrant herself. She said it was her duty to give back.
“If you can do something for the people, if you can give something for the people just do it. That’s what we do and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Sanchez said.
Ingrid said now it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas.
“I mean, it’s unreal, like a dream. They gave us clothes, food, everything. I really didn’t expect this, thank you so much,” Ingrid said.
O’Rourke said about 500 migrants are expected to be released Wednesday.
The migrants waited at the Rock House Cafe and Gallery and were shortly thereafter loaded onto Sun Metro buses and taken to nonprofit shelters.
One child within the group was sick. Volunteers took the child across the street to be checked at the fire station. The child was then sent to the hospital via ambulance.
Most migrants are from Honduras and Guatemala.
ICE released the following statement on Monday:
After decades of inaction by Congress, the government remains severely constrained in its ability to detain and promptly remove families with no legal basis to remain in the U.S. To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border. ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.
O'Rourke showed up to the area on Monday to volunteer and is asking ICE to give a 24-hour notice for community shelters to be able to organize.