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Stefanik condemns possible move of migrants from southern to northern border for processing

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, speaks prior to introducing Vice President Michael Pence at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum on Sunday, Jan. 17. (Provided photo — Sydney Schaefer, Watertown Daily Times)

PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik sharply criticized President Joe Biden following reports that his administration is considering flying migrants to facilities near the northern border for processing.

The Washington Post reported March 19 that, following a new spike in families and children crossing into South Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was forced to request air support from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport the migrants. Communications reviewed by the Post indicate the agency has not yet determined which northern and coastal states the migrants may be sent to.

A statement from CBP reads that the agency “continually evaluates possible contingency plans and adjusts its operations as circumstances dictate, but currently there are no plans to transfer migrants from the southwest border to the northern or coastal borders.”

“Highest surge”

Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said on March 19 that the proposal to send migrants who had crossed the southern border illegally to northern border states was dangerous and “would put the safety of our North Country community and our border law enforcement officers at risk.”

Asked Tuesday if she had more details about the plans, whether they would be implemented and if there was any indication North Country facilities would be selected as destinations, her office said that was a question for the Biden administration and reiterated her opposition.

“President Biden single-handedly manufactured the crisis at our southern border, and the United States is now facing the highest surge in illegal immigrants in twenty years,” Stefanik said.

“He needs to immediately secure and invest in our southern border, send much-needed resources to the U.S. Border Patrol agents on the frontlines and reinstate the effective policies of the Trump Administration, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to host illegal immigrants in hotels, bus them into American communities and fly them across the country without mandating COVID-19 tests.”

Biden reversed the Migrant Protection Protocols, also referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required thousands of asylum seekers to await their immigration court hearings in Mexico.

Prior transports

The Post reported that, at the peak of the 2019 border surge, the Trump administration used ICE Air Flights to transport migrant families to different border sectors.

It does not appear that Stefanik spoke out against the practice then, and she did not respond directly to the question of whether she supported flying migrants out of Texas to other facilities at that time.

“President Biden’s proposal to fly illegal immigrants to northern border states for processing is dangerous, and especially outrageous and untenable at a time when American citizens cannot even cross the northern border to visit their family or access their own property due to the global pandemic we face,” she said, essentially reiterating her initial statement.

No families were sent to northern or coastal locations for processing in 2019 by CBP, that agency said.

On sheriff’s radar

The ICE website lists Clinton County Jail as a detention facility. County Sheriff David Favro explained that the jail provides housing to detainees when needed and available.

He said he has heard “absolutely nothing” from either ICE or CBP, and that his office was staying on top of developments regarding possible transport of migrants to facilities near the northern border “I’m watching it but nothing’s etched in stone yet,” he said. “We haven’t made any changes and there’s no causes for any adjustment yet.”

For the most part, ICE detainees that come to the jail for illegal entry have crossed the northern border, Favro said.

“Two or three years ago there was a small issue with some overflow from Texas and they had sent up a plane-full,” he continued, adding that such occurrences are “nothing frequent.”

“We had to hold onto them for a small period of time until they could find appropriate housing.”

The sheriff said all those detainees were adults.

“We don’t house juveniles and I would not take them from ICE.”

Favro estimated that those migrants were at the jail for about six to eight weeks, depending on individual circumstances.

ICE detainees are processed as new inmates and handled the same as local ones, the sheriff said, so he did not have much insight to provide with regard to what happens before or after they are housed at the jail.

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