Immigrants Caught at Border Believe Families Can Stay in US

Alicia A. Caldwell, AP, October 30, 2015

Nearly a year after the Obama administration launched a massive public relations campaign to dispel rumors of a free pass for immigrant families crossing the border illegally, internal intelligence files from the Homeland Security Department suggest that effort is failing.

Hundreds of immigrant families caught illegally crossing the Mexican border between July and September told U.S. immigration agents they made the dangerous trip in part because they believed they would be permitted to stay in the United States and collect public benefits.

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Administration efforts to stop the flow of immigrant families, primarily from Central America, have included public service campaigns in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to highlight the dangers and consequences of making the trek.

The Associated Press obtained copies of the interview summaries, which were compiled in reports by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Intelligence. They said hundreds of people traveling as part of families consistently cited opportunities to obtain permission to stay in the U.S., claim asylum and receive unspecified benefits. Immigrants spoke of “permisos,” or a pass to come into the United States.

The report “is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of the situation,” said department spokeswoman Marsha Catron, adding that troubles in the immigrants’ home countries likely contributed to their flight as well.

Although the Obama administration has explained that immigrants who cross the U.S. border illegally can be deported, lengthy backlogs of more than 456,000 cases mean that immigrants can effectively remain in the U.S. for years before a judge decides whether they should leave the country. {snip}

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Federal agents interviewed 345 people traveling with family members between July 7 and Sept. 30, according to the five-page report obtained by the House Judiciary Committee and shared with the AP. The interviews did not focus on what prompted the immigrants to leave their home countries, though many did mention gang and family violence as factors.

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Most of the immigrants interviewed, or 181 of them, said reports about the release of immigrant families influenced their decision to come to the United States.

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