As President Donald Trump prepares to visit Arizona for a pre-election rally, federal immigration authorities have not-so-quietly released hundreds of undocumented families arriving at the state’s Southern border seeking asylum in the United States.
The families have been dropped off at churches and other shelters by the busloads.
The abrupt release of large numbers of migrant families has been welcomed by immigrant rights groups, who prefer allowing them to enter the U.S. to apply for asylum over prolonged detention, especially in the wake of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy last summer, which resulted in the forced separation of nearly 3,000 children from their parents.
But some advocates are concerned that the large-scale release of families has been timed by the Trump administration to fire up the Republican base leading up to the midterm elections in hopes of tipping the scales in favor of Republican candidates such as Rep. Martha McSally, a border hawk who is running neck and neck with her centrist Democratic opponent, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
ICE officials announced last Monday that the agency had begun releasing families in Arizona without fully reviewing their travel plans in response to a surge of families arriving at the border and a lack of detention space.
The adults in the family are outfitted with an ankle monitor, released into the custody of relatives living in the United States, and given a hearing at immigration court several weeks later.
The agency claimed they had no choice to release the families because the agency was being hamstrung by a court agreement known as the Flores settlement which limits the amount of time children can be held in detention centers.
Five days after ICE’s announcement, on Saturday, Trump’s campaign announced that Trump would be making a stop in Arizona as part of a flurry of rallies leading up to the midterm elections intended to help Republicans maintain control of both houses of Congress.
By Daniel González and Rafael Carranza for AZCENTRAL
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