The Department of Homeland Security announced in a statement Friday that it had restarted flights expediting the removal of families back to Central America.
DHS said that it resumed flights for “certain families who recently arrived at the southern border, cannot be expelled under Title 42, and do not have a legal basis to stay in the United States.”
The department said that it had started to return families back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and said it was “a lawful means to securely manage our border.”
“It is a step toward our broader aim to realize safe and orderly immigration processing. By placing into expedited removal families who cannot be expelled under Title 42, we are making clear that those who do not qualify to remain in the United States will be promptly removed,” DHS said.
According to The Washington Post, officials from the Biden administration had said on Monday that flights to return families back to Central America would soon resume after officials saw an increase in the number of crossings at Rio Grande Valley of South Texas this month.
The news outlet said that the increased spread of the delta coronavirus variant along the country's southern border and in Texas added pressure for officials to restart the flights.
The Post reported, however, that the spread of the coronavirus has made resuming the flights difficult as many families who were slated to return to their countries had either tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, according to DHS officials whom the Post spoke with.
Of the 147 adults and children who were scheduled to leave from Brownsville, Texas, on two flights, only 73 people actually left the country, the Post reported.
The DHS officials told the Post that most migrants who were on flights back were single adults who returned negative COVID-19 tests.