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Border Patrol is now releasing migrant families directly in Tucson


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TUCSON — Border Patrol officials have begun releasing migrant families in Tucson because they lack the space to detain them and immigration officials are unable to take them into custody.

The practice has been going on for about a month, according to the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, which covers most of Arizona's border with Mexico.

It was a central topic of a meeting Border Patrol officials in Tucson held Friday with local law-enforcement, elected and community leaders. 

The number of migrant families released in Tucson has surpassed the ability of local nonprofits to house them. This past week, the city of Tucson and Pima County opened temporary overflow shelters to house migrants, although those shelters are once again empty, at least for now.

The goal of Friday's meeting is to "alleviate some of the stressors that we've been seeing with this increase in people," said Pete Bidegain, a special-operations supervisor for the Border Patrol. 

"One of the major concerns that was brought up numerous times in the meeting really comes down to better communication between federal officials, county officials, city officials," he added.

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The meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half, was closed to the press and public. It followed a similar meeting U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., hosted Thursday in Phoenix. 

But Friday's meeting was directly organized by Border Patrol officials in Tucson as a goodwill effort to bring together everyone involved in the humanitarian response and come up with a better coordinated response. 

One of the big takeaways, Bidegain said, is the possibility of giving nonprofits and city leaders an earlier heads-up as soon as border officials notice any increases in the numbers of migrants they encounter at the border.


"That heads-up may be hours or it may be days," he said. "But any type of communication, just keeping that open, is going to help us and it's also going to help them."

Border Patrol has not disclosed how many migrants it has released directly into Tucson in the past month since it began the practice, which the agency officially refers to as migrants released on their own recognizance.

As they are released, the migrants are issued notices to appear in court at later dates. 

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