White House sends team as governor calls for 'surge' on Texas border

Estimated 47K unaccompanied children caught attempting to sneak across border

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas - The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with senior officials from the the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Defense and Health and Human Services will visit Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas on Friday.

The trip was announced as the area continues to struggle with thousands of unaccompanied children flowing across the border from Central and South America.

Word of this trip comes a day after Gov. Rick Perry announced that an additional $1.3 million dollars a week will be spent to bolster Texas Department of Public Safety operations along the border. Officials with Perry's office said the money will go toward supplementing ongoing border operations, as well as pay for additional troopers and overtime.

DPS officials said this will help create 24-hour-a-day land, water and air patrols to help combat drug and human smugglers who may take advantage of strained federal and local law enforcement resources.

Perry's office said the state will spend the additional funds through the end of the calendar year.

The federal government estimates at least 47,000 unaccompanied children have been caught trying to sneak across the border. This problem has left both the government and charitable organizations scrambling to provide basic needs for the children.

Federal officials said they believe violence in Central America is in part fueling this influx of parents sending their children to the U.S. Federal officials also said it appears unfounded rumors are circulating in Central and South America that women and children are automatically being allowed to stay in the U.S.

The influx of unaccompanied children is creating another problem regarding housing of illegal immigrants prior to deportation proceedings. Local 2 Investigates visited a bus station in McAllen and spoke to several immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who said they were released by Border Patrol agents after being caught coming into Texas illegally. Since the immigrants are from Central American countries, the United States cannot simply deport them back to Mexico. International law requires foreign nationals to be deported to their home countries.

All those who spoke to Local 2 said they were traveling to stay with family members and friends in other states, but all were ordered to appear before immigration judges at a later date. Many of those at the bus station had hand-written travel itineraries on manila envelopes or green folders that contained paperwork given to them by U.S. immigration officials.

"A coyote brought (me) to McAllen," said Nicola Chavez, who was traveling with his 16-year-old son from El Salvador.

Chavez said he was going to stay with family in San Francisco. He also showed Local 2 the immigration paperwork he was given prior to his release. The paperwork stated he was being released on his own recognizance "due to a lack of space." The same paperwork ordered him to appear before an immigration judge in California before the end of the month.

Local 2 saw similar paperwork given to a man from Honduras traveling with his 5-year-old son. That man told Local 2 he was heading to Maryland to stay with a brother.

A mother traveling with her three children from Honduras told Local 2 she was being allowed to continue on to New York where she has family.

"We came here for the American dream," Leonida Perez said in Spanish.

Prior to being released the immigrants said they contacted family members who wired them money to pay for bus tickets.

Federal officials said all those released went through extensive interviews and criminal background checks that determined they posed no threat or security risk. Federal officials said the individuals are still legally bound to appear before an immigration judge to determine if they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or sent back to their home country.

Federal officials have not yet released any figures on how many immigrants have been released or how many have appeared before immigration judges as required. 

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