The federal Homeland Security agency tasked with removing people illegally present in the country has released a couple hundred thousand immigrant families into the interior of the United States since late December, according to data obtained by the Washington Examiner. Those let loose will not be subject to deportation, at least not until after a hearing they are supposed to attend that is years away.

A total 218,400 people who either illegally entered the country or showed up without proper documentation at a port of entry along the southwest border were let go from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and set free in the U.S. between Dec. 21, 2018 through July 28.

All of those released were family units, which means each person arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border with a child or parent. Adults sometimes travel with children they are unrelated to and claim to be a family.

A 2015 court ruing in the Flores settlement agreement mandated ICE not hold a child, including if the child is accompanied by a parent, more than 20 days, forcing the agency to release massive numbers of people because immigration judges cannot hear new cases for two to five years.

A person applying for asylum this month is in line with approximately 900,000 cases in front of him or her. Families released from custody may live in any part of the U.S. while they await their court date.

ICE could not provide information on the percentage of people who claimed asylum after being taken into custody or being turned away at a border crossing. However, an ICE official said the 218,400 individuals would have been given a Notice To Appear in federal immigration court at a future date, where a judge would decide his or her request to remain in the country.

The greatest number of people were released in the San Antonio region. Approximately 82,300 family units were released in central Texas.

Another 74,700 people were turned loose in El Paso, Texas. Phoenix has permitted 41,000 migrants held there to go free, and San Diego has released 20,400 people.

Former acting ICE Director Mark Morgan said in early June the Trump administration expected to arrest and release into the interior of the country 650,000 unauthorized immigrants by the end of the fiscal year, making it the largest number in a single year. U.S. Border Patrol agents have seen more families arrive at the southwest border since the start of the fiscal year in October than any year in its 95-year history.

The number of families coming to the U.S. illegally and then claiming a credible fear of returning home shot up six-fold in the first six months of fiscal 2019 compared to the same time span last year. From October through April, 248,000 family members were taken into custody compared to 49,000 last year.

As of June 30, more than 390,000 people who arrived with a family member have been arrested by Border Patrol. Another 37,000 people applied for asylum at ports of entry, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Roughly 360,000 are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.