Overcrowding at Border Patrol stations in South Texas has become so acute in recent days that U.S. authorities have taken the rare step of using aircraft to relocate migrants to other areas of the border simply to begin processing them, according to three Homeland Security officials.
The first flight left McAllen, Texas, on Friday, transferring detainees to Border Patrol facilities in Del Rio, Texas. There are daily flights scheduled for the next several days, with two planned for Tuesday, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the operations.
The flights are conducted by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, but the detainees remain in the custody of Border Patrol, officials said. Though ICE routinely uses aircraft to move detainees among its detention facilities, it is very unusual for Border Patrol to fly recent arrivals from one part of the border to another to perform routine booking procedures.
Homeland Security officials requested the aircraft because Border Patrol urgently needs to move single adults out of the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The agency is scrambling to make room for the large volume of families and children who have come across the border in dramatically higher numbers in the past several days, officials said.