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U.S. Border Surge Eases But Detention Conditions Grim

The record surge of Central American families at the U.S. southwest border has begun to ease after tougher enforcement efforts in Mexico but conditions in migrant detention facilities remain dire, according to Mexican and U.S. officials.

FILE PHOTO – An overcrowded fenced area holding families at a Border Patrol station is seen in a still image from video in McAllen, Texas, U.S. on June 10, 2019 and released as part of a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on July 2, 2019. Picture pixelated at source. Office of Inspector General/DHS/Handout via REUTERS.

The U.S. government’s internal watchdog on Tuesday said migrant holding centers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley were dangerously overcrowded, publishing graphic pictures of cells holding twice as many people as they were built for.

But there were signs immigration authorities were reducing migration flows, as Democratic lawmakers and presidential hopefuls lashed out at the Trump administration’s handling of the border humanitarian crisis.

Mexico’s government, citing unpublished U.S. data, said migrant arrests at the border fell 30% in June from the previous month after it launched a migration crackdown as part of a deal with the United States to avoid possible trade tariffs.

The Mexican government said it was now busing home dozens of Central American migrants from border city Juarez who were forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed under a U.S. policy known as “Remain in Mexico.”

“Mexico’s effort to control the flow of migrants appears to have broken a growing trend,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

After migrant arrests reached a 13-year monthly high in May, immigration has arguably become the biggest issue for Trump and Democratic hopefuls vying for the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker would “virtually eliminate immigration detention” if he wins the White House, his campaign said on Tuesday.

Presidential hopeful Julian Castro last week proposed decriminalizing border crossings as a step toward freeing up federal resources and eliminating thousands of cases clogging criminal courts – an initiative favored by fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Trump meanwhile looked to stir up support for his policies, promising immigration raids after the July 4 U.S. holiday to arrest migrants with deportation orders.

He faced a setback on Tuesday when a federal judge in Seattle blocked an administration move to keep thousands of asylum seekers in custody while they pursued their cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union, and other immigrant rights groups, sued the government in April after Attorney General William Barr concluded that asylum seekers who entered the country illegally were not eligible for bond..

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman on Tuesday ruled that people detained after entering the country to seek asylum were entitled to bond hearings. (Reuters)

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