Sen. Bob Menendez said Wednesday that immigration detention centers should only be used to hold criminal illegal aliens and that asylum seekers ought to be allowed to await immigration hearings from the interior of the country.
But his idea defeats the point of detention centers for a couple reasons.
First, any person who arrives at the border seeking refugee status or has been apprehended after illegally entering the country is entitled to a court hearing by a judge who will determine whether he or she has a legitimate claim to entry.
The point of detaining these people is to give a judge the opportunity to make that decision because the Border Patrol, among other concerns, cannot simply screen an individual to determine if he or she has a criminal history in another country (though that is only one of the reasons an individual is detained). Menendez failed to explain how he would determine if someone is a criminal alien.
Second, Menendez called for the release of all current detainees and a stop to the practice of holding incoming aliens. Instead, he would implement an ankle bracelet tracking process to ensure aliens show up to their court dates.
However, releasing aliens gives individuals the ability to disappear. In fact, 84 percent of adults who arrived at the border with children last year were not detained and entrusted with later showing up for their immigration hearings, but never did.
Still, Menendez believes letting tens of thousands of aliens loose could be managed by simply issuing each person an ankle bracelet.
“The bottom line,” Menendez said, “is that there is a way to ensure their appearance at a hearing that doesn’t involve detention. There are monitoring systems, such as ankle bracelets.”
But the rate of showing for court dates would be much higher if we detained every person seeking to enter the U.S. without a visa.
That’s why we must process foreigners who show up at our border to determine if they have a credible asylum claim to pursue. That process must include retaining them and hearing their cases as soon as possible.