Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers dropped off more than 200 undocumented immigrants outside a Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday night without an apparent plan for housing them, according to Sgt. Robert Gomez, spokesman with the El Paso Police Department.
Police were first notified of the crowd at about 8 p.m. by officials at the bus terminal, who said individuals were trying to board buses without tickets.
“All of a sudden a bunch of people show up; ICE drops them off,” said Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker. “We weren’t expecting it. We are not given prior notice.”
The waiting area at the bus terminal is small, Gomez said, and many people were left standing outside in the cold. He said the group of 211 undocumented immigrants included some families and small children.
Four buses later arrived for people to board and stay warm, he said.
“We weren’t going to put 200 people on the streets of El Paso on a cold night. We wouldn’t do that,” Gomez said.
Authorities found housing for the migrants, including at a hotel and a nearby Catholic school, Gomez said.
ICE said in an emailed statement to CNN that after decades of inaction by Congress, the government is limited in what it can do to remove families who are in the United States illegally.
“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border,” the statement, which did not specifically refer to the Sunday night incident in El Paso, read.
“ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”
On Twitter, Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas tweeted that ICE said it would release more migrants tomorrow and the next day.
“We’re trying to ensure that ICE gives the community notice next time when they know that there’s not going to be space in existing migrant shelters, to give the community 24 hours heads up so that we can find hotel rooms, beds, alternative shelters, food, volunteers – everything that these people will need to make sure that they are OK,” he said.