| SAN DIEGO, June 23
SAN DIEGO, June 23 The U.S. government on Monday
canceled plans to begin flying illegal immigrants to California
from Texas, where processing centers have been overwhelmed by a
surge of Central American arrivals including children traveling
alone, officials said.
More than 47,000 unaccompanied minors are thought to have
entered the country illegally between October and May, nearly
twice as many as the year before, leading to crowded facilities
in Texas and efforts to move some to other states.
The Customs and Border Protection agency on Monday gave no
reason for the cancellation. An official with the agency's union
said the move reflected public opposition.
Border Patrol officials in Southern California had been
expecting a flight carrying 140 immigrants picked up in Texas to
arrive on Monday, and San Diego Sector Chief Paul Beeson said
similar flights were then expected to land every three days.
He said his officers were expecting to process the new
arrivals and hold them in custody until immigration authorities
determined what to do with them. But late on Sunday he told
Reuters those plans had been canceled.
A Border Patrol spokesman declined further comment on
President Barack Obama has called the flood of illegal
immigrant children an urgent humanitarian crisis, and the
Department of Homeland Security said on Friday it was looking
for more facilities to house the minors.
The influx comes as a number of U.S. groups push for policy
reform to allow the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants
in the United States to obtain a pathway to citizenship, even as
many Republicans complain the federal government is not doing
enough to secure the country's southern border.
Republicans blame the surge of children on Obama's 2012
decision to give temporary relief from deportation to some young
people brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
Many of the youngsters are believed to be escaping poverty,
organized crime and drug-fueled violence in countries such as
Honduras and El Salvador, in hope of a better life in the north.
Underlining the stretched conditions in U.S. Southwestern
states, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has slammed as "dangerous
and unconscionable" a policy that in one instance saw hundreds
of migrants detained in Texas released at Arizona bus stations.
The Obama administration says it is boosting the number of
immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers to decide
quickly what happens to people apprehended at the border.
Gabe Pacheco, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol
Council union, said the cancellation of the California flights
was likely due to public pressure.
He said agents were worried about safety and being stretched
too thin by the new arrivals, even as they collected clothes and
shoes for the young people and families who make up the majority
of those detained.
"It was political, plain and simple," Pacheco said. "Public
outcry after people found out that illegal immigrants from
Central America were most likely going to be released here in
California made them stop."
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Daniel Wallis and