McALLEN, Texas — The Obama administration, stepping up efforts to reduce the influx of Central American migrants crossing the Southwest border illegally and saying that misinformation about its border policies may have helped spur it, will detain more of those migrants and accelerate their cases in immigration courts so they can be deported more quickly, officials said.
To accommodate the change, Department of Homeland Security officials are rushing to open more detention centers intended for families with children, the officials said. And they will expand the use of monitoring devices, such as electronic ankle bracelets, to keep track of migrants after they are released.
Immigration officers and judges will also be reassigned on an emergency basis to speed cases in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where most of the illegal migrants are entering into the United States.
The move comes as the administration is trying to quell rampant rumors throughout Central America that U.S. border authorities are offering entry permits to parents traveling with young children after they are caught. Officials hope that by increasing the numbers of migrants who are detained and then deported, others considering the trek may be dissuaded from doing so.
Until now, White House officials have insisted that extreme poverty and an epidemic of criminal gang violence were the main causes of the surge in illegal immigration that has brought nearly 200,000 migrants to South Texas this year. They resisted criticism by Republican lawmakers in Congress who said lax border enforcement had unleashed the surge.
But many migrants told Border Patrol agents they decided to set out for this country after hearing the United States was offering some kind of entry permit. Many migrants who asked for asylum after being apprehended have been allowed to stay temporarily, further fueling hopes that Central Americans were receiving special treatment. White House officials are now moving to address those issues directly.
“Misperceptions of how we apply our immigration policies” were among the factors driving the surge, Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House domestic policy council, said.
White House officials announced the measures Friday, as Vice President Joe Biden was meeting in Guatemala with top leaders of the three Central American countries sending most migrants — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — to secure their help in conveying the message there are no new opportunities to come legally to the United States.