On Saturday, a mother and her three young children from Honduras were released from the federal building downtown after they were processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. NBC 7 spoke with the family as they waited for their ride. But an agency spokesperson acknowledged at that point, they could have just walked away. NBC 7’s Sherene Tagharobi reports.
An undocumented immigrant mother said she fled Honduras with her three young children due to escalating violence and because her husband, a police officer, received threats against their kids, ages 10, 9 and 4.
"In our country, you can't have kids, you can't be an honest person," the mother, who asked to remain anonymous told NBC 7 in Spanish, fighting back tears. "If you are, the gangs will kill you."
The 26-year-old is among the group of undocumented immigrant families flown from Texas to San Diego as part of the federal government’s plan to address the nation’s border crisis. She spoke with NBC 7 outside the federal building in downtown San Diego.
She said she saw no way out but to flee to America -- even if she had to do it illegally. She has a brother in Oklahoma with whom she'll soon be reunited. On Saturday, she said he was on his way to pick her and the kids up. Her ride came about five hours later.
The mother said she’s unsure what her future holds in America. She said she’ll have to wait and see what an immigration judge has to say about the fates of herself and her children.
Sitting on a bench next to her was another undocumented immigrant mother and her two children from El Salvador. She chose not to speak to NBC 7 but did say there were a dozen more immigrant families inside the federal building being processed.
Both mothers said they arrived to San Diego on a plane from Texas on July 1. They both said that plane was filled with all mothers and children together and no unaccompanied minors.
Despite the release of these families, just as in recent days, a spokesperson from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told NBC 7 she had no information regarding how many of these families had been released in San Diego.
She said officials would not be providing that information for security reasons.
The spokesperson also said the wave of undocumented immigrants tranferred to San Diego this week included either children with a parent, children with a relative and adults. She said ICE is not handling unaccompanied undocumented minors.
After disembarking a chartered aircraft at the San Diego International Airport, Tuesday’s group of approximately 140 undocumented immigrant mothers and children were transferred onto Homeland Security buses and driven to Murrieta, bound for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.
However, heated protesters in Murrieta blocked the buses from entering, forcing federal authorities to send the passengers to smaller processing centers throughout San Diego County, including Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and Otay Mesa.
Friday’s group was also expected to be shuttled to Murrieta, but that never happened. Instead, they were bussed to a San Ysidro processing station and an immigration office in downtown San Diego.
According to federal authorities, the undocumented families and children will be released from CBP to ICE officials for additional processing. However, the timeline for all of this remains unclear.
Officials said the priority is to reunite the immigrants with family members currently living in the U.S.
They will be given a scheduled date for an immigration hearing and will be expected to return to federal authorities. Undocumented immigrants are typically released in anywhere from eight to 36 hours after detainment, officials said.