A Border Patrol officer with recently detained immigrants. Courtesy CBP

The federal government began flying hundreds of detained immigrants from Texas to San Diego Friday for processing due to overwhelmed facilities in Texas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed that they began flying roughly 130 immigrants per flight to San Diego from detention and processing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. Immigration officials plan to charter three flights a week from Texas to San Diego International Airport, where the detainees will be moved to local CBP stations such as Brown Field.

The flights come amid an unprecedented crush of people entering the country illegally along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to federal officials. CBP agents have been detaining roughly 4,500 immigrants at the southern border each day this year, many of them families and unaccompanied minors, according to the agency.

Because of the surge, immigrant processing facilities are struggling to keep up. CBP officials said the agency has been holding roughly 8,000 people along the border in Texas, double its capacity in the Rio Grande Valley. Federal officials are also considering flying detained immigrants to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York, to alleviate pressure on facilities in Texas.

In San Diego, CBP agents and immigration officials plan to process detainees within 72 hours, and they are legally barred from keeping immigrant families in detention for more than 20 days. Once processed, families and individual migrants are often released into the county with an ankle monitor to ensure they return to court for their immigration hearing.

Immigrants often receive assistance from organizations and advocacy groups like the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of human rights, service and faith-based organizations that offer humanitarian aid like food, baby formula and diapers.

The SDRRN operates a migrant shelter in downtown San Diego, which has received funding and support from state and local officials in recent months to assist immigrants who lack a support network. Gov. Gavin Newsom provided $5 million for migrant relief efforts at the border shortly after entering office in January to help fund groups like the SDRRN.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher expressed a willingness to assist the immigrant families arriving in San Diego County.

“My office has coordinated with our Health and Human Services Agency and The Rapid Response Network; we are ready to do everything we can to help families being flown to San Diego,” Fletcher said. “We stand ready to help immigrants and protect the public’s health.”

Local border patrol officials received a test flight of 126 immigrants on Tuesday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Immigration officials plan to operate 10 jets between San Diego and Texas to assist CBP agents in the Rio Grande Valley. The flights are expected to continue indefinitely.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.