ICE: Only 2 percent of immigrants released from custody get deported

Oct 15, 2018, 11:31 AM

Editor’s note: KTAR News’ Martha Maurer recently sat down with Henry Lucero, Phoenix field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The topic: understanding why hundreds of immigrants were released from ICE custody last week and dropped off at churches across Arizona.

Only 2 percent of family units seeking asylum who are released from ICE custody are ever repatriated, according to Lucero.

“That means 98 percent are going through proceedings or we are ultimately looking for them right now,” Lucero said.

That staggering statistic is a reason why the Arizona border with Mexico is seeing a large draw of family units from Central America, Lucero explained.

A large number of them detained end up being released from custody after around two weeks.

Who are they?

It is estimated that 85 percent of immigrants who arrive at Arizona-Mexico border are from Guatemala. Most are asking for asylum as soon as they arrive.

“What DHS [Department of Homeland Security] as an agency suggests is if you are coming as an asylum seeker, that you claim asylum in the first country that you enter,” Lucero said.

Families from Central America, instead, are continuing north when they get to Mexico.

In speaking with some families from Guatemala, Lucero shared an explanation they gave him as to why they made the long and dangerous journey to the Arizona desert.

“On the news in Guatemala they are saying that you can get a work permit if you’re in a family, if you’re coming with your child, and that you’re going to be released,” Lucero said.

He added that human smugglers are taking note. Immigrants are paying smugglers to get them to the border. Instead of attempting to cross into Arizona illegally, the smugglers are instructing the immigrants to find a border patrol agent and turn themselves in.

Border Patrol in Yuma provides a similar story. In fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 13,000 immigrants, mainly families. Officials said they are on track to double that number.

“They were told by smuggling organizations and the smugglers that all they have to do is jump over the wall or however they may cross, seek out an agent, and then they will be able to claim asylum that way,” explained Jose Garibay, a border patrol agent in Yuma recently told KTAR News.

Garibay said the Border Patrol has been forced to use resources meant for national security for other purposes, like providing aid to injured immigrants fleeing their homeland.

Once families are released, where do they go?

Last week, it is estimated 400 to 700 immigrants, mainly families, were released from ICE custody and bused to churches across Arizona. ICE did not provide specific numbers.

In Phoenix, two churches received around 100 immigrants each last week.

In order to handle the increased number of immigrants, released non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work with ICE to provide temporary shelter, food and guidance for their next stop. The majority of the immigrants KTAR News reporters saw arrive at the churches were equipped with ankle monitors.

“We know where they’re going, where they tell us they’re going,” Lucero said.

All immigrants who are being released are given notices to appear within 7-10 days in the city where they’re headed.

“Over 95 percent of people are not staying in the state of Arizona. Most of them are going east of Arizona, generally to the East Coast,” Lucero said.

If the immigrants do not check in or if they cut off their ankle monitors, they become fugitives and are subject to arrest and prosecution for destruction of government property and hindering their removal efforts.

If immigrants do skip out on their court hearings or cut off their monitors, it’s up to the ICE office in the state where it happened to look for the fugitives.

Most immigrants seeking asylum stay in the US

Of the family units who are showing up at the Arizona-Mexico border, most are being released from custody within 10-13 days, below the legal limit imposed by the Flores settlement, which prohibits the government from holding family units in custody beyond 20 days.

“People know that, smugglers know that. They take advantage of it,” Lucero said.

“That’s why there’s likely a big draw to the United States of family units or people acting as family unit.”

He said that shows there are no consequences for immigrant families to come to the U.S. Families are released within three weeks and continue their asylum cases from outside of custody.

Immigration processes like asylum can take several years. That’s where a lot of immigrants disappear from radar.

“Even if you get to a point where you’re released from custody for two or three years, at that final hearing to see an immigration judge, you may not show up because you feel your claim is not going to be approved,” Lucero said.

He went on to say at that point, ICE is dedicating resources to look for them.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mark Carlson contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Tania Estudillo Hernandez. (El Mirage Police Department Photo)...

Woman in El Mirage arrested for managing human smuggling operations

PHOENIX — A woman was arrested Friday evening for her role in a human smuggling operation based in El Mirage, authorities said. Tania Estudillo Hernandez, 24, was booked into Fourth Avenue Jail on charges including kidnapping, money laundering, conspiracy and illegally conducting a criminal enterprise, the El Mirage Police Department said in a press release. […]
14 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

Phoenix police shoot, kill man throwing rocks at patrol car

Phoenix police are investigating an officer-involved shooting after a man throwing rocks at a patrol car died Saturday evening.
14 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

Tucson man accused of lying about weapon used in mass shooting

A Tucson man was charged last week for making a false statement to agents during an investigation into a mass shooting, authorities said.
14 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

Glendale Community College teams with police on law enforcement training academy

Glendale Community College and West Valley police departments said they've partnered to launch a fulltime law enforcement training academy.
14 hours ago
Arizona Secretary of State Latie Hobbs, left, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Kris Mayes, ...
Associated Press

GOP quiet as Arizona Democrats condemn abortion ruling

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Democrats vowed Saturday to fight for women’s rights after a court reinstated a law first enacted during the Civil War that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, looking to capitalize on an issue they hope will have a major impact on the midterm elections. Republican candidates were silent a day after […]
2 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...

Gilbert Oktoberfest set for Oct. 15 at Gilbert Regional Park

An oompah band will welcome visitors to Gilbert Regional Park for this year's Gilbert Oktoberfest on Saturday, Oct. 15.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
ICE: Only 2 percent of immigrants released from custody get deported