SAN DIEGO -- Hundreds of migrant families arrested trying to illegally cross into the Rio Grande Valley will be flown into San Diego to help relieve crowded border facilities in Texas.
Some Texas border facilities are at double their capacity. As of May 16th, Rio Grande Valley facilities had approximately 8,000 people in custody, border agents said. Currently, the San Diego processing facilities have about 800 in custody.
A flight carrying 126 people arrived at the San Diego International Airport on Tuesday to test the transfer process. The first official flight arrived Friday afternoon, Interim Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said.
Three flights are scheduled to arrive weekly. Each flight will carry between 120-135 people. Harrison does not expect any of the passengers to be unaccompanied minors.
The families, mostly from Central America, will be medically screened first to make sure they are fit for travel. Once they arrive, they will be processed at one of eight Custom and Border Protection Facilities within the San Diego Sector where they will be interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed.
The goal is to have them processed and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement within 72 hours. ICE will determine whether or not they will release the families to shelters or to family members.
"Our intent is to move through this process as quickly and fairly as possible," Harrison said.
Families are also being sent to Del Rio, Texas, and plans are underway to potentially ship them to processing facilities in Detroit, Buffalo and Miami.
Detainees were brought to San Diego to relieve other border towns in 2014 using a similar process, Harrison said.
Along the southern border, agents detain an average of 4,500 people every day, CBP said. According to the Flores Settlement Agreement, ICE is required to release families from detention within 20 days of their arrival.
"The men and women of CBP are doing everything we can to achieve our humanitarian mission and will continue to coordinate with stakeholders in local communities, including other law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and non-governmental organizations as DHS employs a 'whole of government' approach to confronting the ongoing crisis," CBP wrote in a statement.
The three weekly flights will continue indefinitely, Harrison said.