On Thursday, ABC15 sat down with the ICE Field Office Director in Phoenix, Henry Lucero. Lucero says the process of releasing families as they wind through the immigration court process isn't new, but as of October 7, they are increasing the number of families released from custody. Those who are released are equipped with ankle monitors, and have a set of conditions they must follow during the process.
"What's changed since Sunday is...that the volume of who we're releasing to the faith-based organizations has increased," Lucero said. "There was a backlog of people in CBP (Customs and Border Protection) custody...people waiting to go to ICE. We've effectively eliminated that backlog."
Lucero says a "loophole" allows for families to cross the border, whether to seek asylum or otherwise, knowing they might be released from custody. For families detained by immigration authorities, under a settlement agreement and subsequent decision, unaccompanied children or families can only be held in custody for 20 days before being released while their cases work their way through immigration courts.
"There's an absolute loophole," Lucero said. "ICE only has the ability to detain a family unit in our family residential centers for about 20 days. That process of going through an immigration proceeding will never happen in that short amount of time."