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Wave Of Migrant Releases From ICE Forces Advocates To Scramble

Advocates said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released hundreds more migrants and asylum seekers this weekend than the agency had told volunteers to expect, and the system to help them was overwhelmed by the volume.

Since early October, ICE has been releasing families to Valley churches and activists who give the migrants temporary shelter, food and healthcare.

“And what happened is on Friday there were three buses. On Saturday there were three buses. [Sunday] there has been about five buses," said Barbara Lewkowitz, who works with volunteers to prepare meals for migrants when they get out of ICE custody.

Lewkowitz, who said she works with a handful of churches that take in migrants and asylum seekers, was expecting to feed 200 people over the weekend, but ended up needing enough food for 500.

“And so it’s putting a strain on all of the volunteers of the churches,” she said.

"Over the weekend, we dropped off appox 200 family units at the bus stop because the organizations we've been working with could not accommodate," ICE spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said Monday morning.

In the past, the agency has said families are released due to lack of space and the need to stay in line with a court settlement limiting how long children can be detained.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.