More than 70 percent of the 98,000 illegal aliens detained so far this year by the U.S. Border Patrol from countries other than Mexico were released almost immediately onto the streets of America because of a lack of detention facilities, federal authorities said yesterday.
Under questioning by members of two Senate subcommittees, Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar said agents in Texas alone were experiencing a near threefold increase in the number of illegals known as “other than Mexican,” or OTMs.
But because of a lack of detention beds, he said, “there is no place to put them.”
“We interdict them, process them and then hand them off,” Chief Aguilar said.
Chief Aguilar, whose agency does not oversee the detention program, called the “exponential growth” in the number of OTMs and their subsequent release “a major source of clogging and friction for the removal process.”
The chief acknowledged to Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, that because of a lack of intelligence data, some OTMs released may have been criminals.
The panels also are concerned that some of the OTMs come from nations identified as state sponsors of terrorism, although most come from Central and South America, Europe and Asia.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and citizenship, said arrests of OTMs at the southern border were reaching record levels and some have been identified as being from countries identified as sponsors of terrorism.
“The vast majority of illegal OTMs are simply given a notice to appear letter and released into our country because we lack the facilities to hold them,” Mr. Cornyn said. “Whether in Texas, Arizona, California or anywhere else . . . this state of affairs is unacceptable and needs to change.”