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Immigrant children waited in line to make phone calls at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center in Nogales, Ariz.

Ross D. Franklin • Associated Press pool,

U.S. to step up deportations

  • Article by: Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Richard Simon
  • Los Angeles Times
  • June 20, 2014 - 8:50 PM

– Obama administration officials announced new measures Friday to detain and process an influx of families streaming over the southern U.S. border in recent months, primarily from Central America.

The goal is to deport illegal immigrants more quickly.

Officials plan to open new temporary immigration detention centers to house the families, and will send more immigration judges and government lawyers to the epicenter of the crisis in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to speed processing of immigrants’ cases, officials said Friday.

“We are surging our resources to increase our capacity to detain,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

He would not say whether the new detention facilities would be on military bases, where officials have opened other shelters for immigrant youths in recent weeks.

The government currently operates only one detention facility for immigrant families, a transitional facility in Berks County, Pa., which can hold about 80 individuals.

The T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas, stopped holding families in 2009 after lawsuits exposed poor conditions for children. Friday’s announcement marks the first time that immigration officials have expanded the use of family detention centers in more than five years.

Mayorkas emphasized that the new facilities would be equipped to detain families humanely, and that officials will also use alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitors for those released pending court proceedings.

He said 39,000 adults had been caught crossing the southwestern border with children from Oct. 1, 2013, the start of the federal government’s fiscal year, through the end of May. Another 52,000 unaccompanied children had been caught as of June 15.

Mayorkas said deploying National Guard troops to the border would not help.

“The question before us is how can we make the process more efficient given the surge in the number of individuals who are being apprehended, and how can we address those individuals in terms of their humanitarian claims for relief,” Mayorkas said. “That is not a process in which the National Guard is involved.”

The announcement came just hours after Boehner sent a letter to the president blaming his policies for the surge in illegal border crossings. “The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely,” Boehner wrote.

Boehner called for the administration to “find a way to ensure that apprehended adults and their family members do in fact appear for their deportation hearings.”

A hearing on the issue is set for Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

© 2014 Star Tribune