Only one of the families flown to San Diego from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas has indicated plans to stay in the area, officials told NBC Tuesday.
NBC 7 has obtained new information from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) San Diego Sector on the processing of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America.
Beginning July 1, three planes carrying undocumented women and children have landed in San Diego as part of the federal government’s plan to alleviate an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors in the border region.
In exclusive interviews with NBC 7, several of those women said they left Honduras, Guatemala and other countries because of the poverty and violence.
An estimated 400 undocumented immigrants are currently being processed at facilities in San Diego County.
Federal officials say once the undocumented immigrants arrive to San Diego, they are interviewed, photographed and fingerprinted. They also undergo a background check, officials said.
They are then transferred into ICE custody where each individual will be assigned a “next step.”
Officers with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) decide if the immigrant will be released with a pending date in front of an immigration judge.
According to CBP officials, the undocumented immigrants in San Diego are “instructed to report to an ICE office closes to their final destination within 15 days” of release.
NBC 7 has found families waiting outside the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. CBP officials tell NBC 7 that the undocumented immigrants who choose to travel by car are released directly from the ICE office.
“The migrants are responsible for any transportation expenses to their onward destinations. The federal government does not assume any of those costs,” the statement continues.
Officials say the process is not unlike how other undocumented immigrants from other countries are managed.
The ERO team has added staffing to help manage the large number of transfers.
As for the fears from anti-immigration protesters that the undocumented women and children will be simply released to the public, officials said most of those being transferred to California don’t intend to stay in the area.
“They will depart for their onward destinations as soon as they’re released from ICE custody,” officials said.
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