Tough immigration enforcement directives from the White House are being thwarted by “Catch and Release” policies held over from the Obama administration, according the head of the National Border Patrol Council.
Under catch and release, federal immigration agencies are freeing illegal aliens at the border when there is no bed space at detention facilities. They’re even getting taxpayer-funded air transportation into the interior U.S.
Department of Homeland Security officials revealed in January that groups of illegal aliens were put on planes in Texas and Arizona bound for Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, respectively. Accompanied by Department of Health and Human Services escorts, they were flown to destinations of their choice, with priority boarding to boot.
“We thought there would be a massive change [with President Trump taking office], but that hasn’t happened,” NBPC President Brandon Judd told FAIR this week.
In a January 2017 executive order, Trump directed DHS to “immediately take all appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “is committed to supporting the executive order,” ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke told FAIR.
Bourke said the agency is adding detention space and working to expedite hearings at backlogged immigration courts. The average daily population at ICE detention facilities grew from 28,449 in fiscal 2015 to 38,106 in fiscal 2017.
ICE would not disclose how many migrants had been caught and released. Reuters reported last summer that the number of illegal immigrants awaiting court hearings while living freely in the United States was growing by 7,500 per month.
Judd said letting illegal aliens go on their own recognizance with a flimsy court “notice to appear” makes matters worse.
“The whole drive to stop illegal border crossings is predicated on deportations,” Judd asserted.
While critical of ICE, Judd isn’t letting his own agency off the hook.
“Border Patrol leadership could have processed our arrests in a manner that would have forced ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations to hold the individuals pending adjudication before a judge, but we didn’t.”
“There is no legal requirement to release (illegal aliens),” Judd concluded. “We’re doing it because we’re unwilling to transfer them to detention facilities in other parts of the country that have bed space. This is about money and not the protection of U.S. citizens.”
And speaking of money, the $1.3 trillion spending bill in Congress won’t help. It limits the number of illegal aliens ICE can detain and restricts hiring of new ICE interior enforcement agents.
If Obama holdovers won’t carry out his immigration orders, the president must remove them immediately.