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U.S. Border Patrol agents detain migrants Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Border patrol agents in the Texas Rio Grande Valley sector used their own discretion to release about 150 migrants Saturday evening without giving them a court date, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The use of prosecutorial discretion by border patrol to release migrants without a notice to appear in court is unprecedented, according to multiple sources, and is yet another sign of how overwhelmed parts of the border are becoming.

  • The Rio Grande Valley sector had roughly 5,100 migrants in custody as of Sunday, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios.
  • They were supposed to keep the number of migrants in their custody to about 700 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest: Guidance sent to border patrol in the sector on Saturday from agency leadership told border patrol agents they can decide to release some migrants — often at bus stations or nongovernmental organizations — without a notice to appear in court, according to a source familiar with the correspondence.

  • Migrant families and adults are usually first referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to determine if and where migrants will be detained.
  • Agents are still using an emergency public health order to quickly expel migrant adults and some families, but the guidance gives them more leeway in deciding what to do on a case-by-case basis, according to the source.
  • The guidance also says COVID-19 testing should be administered whenever possible. The government has largely relied on local agencies and nongovernmental organizations to provide testing for migrant families and adults.
  • Fox News first reported on the move, citing multiple border patrol agents.

What they're saying: "In some cases, families are placed in removal proceedings further along in the release process rather than while they are at the border patrol station," a DHS official told Axios in a statement.

  • "All families, however, are screened at the border patrol station, including the collection of biographical and biometric information and criminal and national security records checks."

Go deeper: Nearly 1,000 kids held by border patrol for more than 10 days

Go deeper

Bernie Sanders: U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Stefani Reynolds via Getty Images

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

3 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: Uber makes new hire, launches anti-racism campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios was first to report.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, will cooperate with federal prosecutors

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl) speaks during the "Save America Summit" at the Trump National Doral golf resort on April 09, 2021 in Doral, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Staff via Getty Images

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, the New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.