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Illegal immigrants released inside the U.S. amid surge in Texas

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 8:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is releasing inside the United States some immigrants who have crossed illegally into the country amid a surge in traffic across the Mexican border in southern Texas. But how many remains a mystery because the government won't disclose the number.

The Homeland Security Department started flying immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants, including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own, overwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America. They were flown from Texas, released in Arizona and told to report to an ICE office near where they were traveling within 15 days.

The administration would not say on Friday how many immigrants were affected — hundreds or thousands — or how many of those immigrants subsequently reported back to the government after 15 days as directed.

As many as 400 people were flown to Arizona during one weekend last month. Many were dropped off at bus stations to travel to their original destinations in the United States.

Most immigrants arrested at the border in southern Texas are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala and cannot be immediately repatriated, so they are handed over to ICE. The agency said that after immigrants report back to its offices, it would make “appropriate custody determinations” based on the government's enforcement priorities.

The perception that some immigrants could be getting a free pass into the country could lead to even more attempts to cross the border.

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