Border agents in the Rio Grande Valley were authorized over the weekend to release adult migrants and families from custody before they are given court dates.
Documents obtained by NBC News said the move is “intended to mitigate operational challenges, including risks to national security, during significant surges of illegal migration as currently exist in the Rio Grande Valley.”
In the document, Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) instructed agents to release migrants without court dates when their facilities meet one of a number of criteria, including reaching 100 percent capacity.
According to data obtained by NBC News, as of Sunday, 5,175 immigrants were in Border Patrol custody in the Rio Grande Valley, where facilities can hold 715.
Migrants who spoke to NBC said they were asked for contact information by border agents upon being released and were given documents that had “to be determined” court dates. They were reportedly told that they would be contacted within 30 days.
However, other migrants said their contact information was not taken before being released and were instead given documents they were told to show local authorities if they were stopped while in the U.S.
NBC notes that the practice is a divergence from normal CBP policy. Migrants are usually given a “notice to appear” before they are released or sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“In some cases, families are placed in removal proceedings further along in the release process rather than while they are at the Border Patrol station,” a CBP spokeswoman told NBC News. “All families, however, are screened at the Border Patrol station, including the collection of biographical and biometric information and criminal and national security records checks.”