Catch and Release Remains Alive and Well
Few things are more infuriating than the nation's de facto capitulation to those who cross our borders illegally.
“The advantages of an ocean on either side of us, a nuclear arsenal, and a $700 billion defense budget do little good when enemies can enter through the front door and roam freely within the nation’s interior.” —Christopher Roach, American Greatness
Few things are more infuriating than the nation’s de facto capitulation to those who cross our borders illegally. And nothing says capitulation more forcefully than the con game known as America’s “catch and release” policy.
A news release by the Department of Homeland Security outlines how that game is played: “Due to legal loopholes and court backlogs, even apprehended illegal aliens are released and become part of the temporary, illegal population of people that we cannot remove.”
One of those loopholes is the Flores Settlement Agreement. In 1985, two groups filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) detained by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). An agreement was reached in 1997, but litigation has continued for more than 20 years, and numerous court decisions have hindered the DHS’s ability to detain and quickly remove UACs. Under the current agreement, the DHS can only hold UACs for 20 days, after which they must be released to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) where they are placed in shelters or foster arrangements until a sponsor is located.
The other loophole is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. It essentially defined any UACs not from Mexico and Canada as “refugees,” exempting them from a quick return to their home countries.
The Obama administration gamed these loopholes with impunity. First, thousands of children deemed to be “refugees” were placed with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which subsequently dispersed them throughout the nation.
Central America got the “welcome” message. Between 2009 and 2014, this effort engendered an astounding 1,243% increase in the number of UACs coming from El Salvador, a 1,429% increase in the number coming Guatemala, and a 1,784% increase in the number coming from Honduras.
Unsurprisingly, the massive influx overwhelmed detention space, and thus many of these UACs were released.
To whom? During a 2014 Senate hearing, former HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families Mark Greenberg admitted that the refusal to inquire about the legal or illegal status of family members taking custody of illegal immigrant children was HHS policy.
In other words, guardianship of illegal children was granted to other illegals.
What happened as a result was completely predictable. “American immigration courts have the highest failure to appear rates of any courts in the country,” explained Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) columnist Mark Metcalf in 2017. And lest anyone think this failure rate is strictly about “refugees” or illegals from South or Central America, think again. “Among those who absconded from court were 3,095 aliens from the 36 countries that promote terrorism,” Metcalf adds. “A disproportionate number — 338 altogether — came from those countries the U.S. State Department labels state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Sudan, and Syria.”
When Trump was elected, a sizable respite from this onslaught occurred. Unfortunately, the border surges have returned, and National Border Patrol Council (NPBC) President Brandon Judd wants Americans to know exactly who is to blame. “The Republicans control the House and the Senate: they do not need the Democrat support to pass any laws they want,” he declared. “They can go the ‘Nuclear Option’ just like what they did on the confirmation. They need to pass laws and end the catch-and-release program.”
And if they fail to do so? “[Illegal aliens are] going to create havoc and chaos,” he warns. “I mean, how many times do we have to hear stories of United States citizens being killed by people who are here illegally before we actually do something?”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is attempting to do something about it. In the next three weeks he plans to introduce legislation that would allow immigration agents to send those caught crossing the border illegally back to their home nation while their claims are being adjudicated, rather than continue abiding the “caught, released, fail to show up in court” charade that currently prevails. “The reason why 70 percent of [illegal aliens] don’t make their court date is because [the federal government doesn’t] make them stay in their country,” Inhofe explained. “And, obviously, if I were in that position, I’d be off someplace else too.”
Naturally, there was pushback. “Have we really stooped this low? This suggestion is absurd, illogical and cruel — not to mention a waste of resources,” asserted Kica Matos, director of the Washington, DC-based Immigrant and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change. “Republicans need to focus on making communities safer instead of continuing to tear families apart.”
Making communities safer by ignoring catch and release? Tell that to Kate Steinle’s family, Ms. Matos. Or the families of the nearly 30 people murdered by MS-13 members on Long Island. Tell it to the hundreds of thousands of Americans victimized by the thousands of illegals incarcerated in federal prisons, along with those in state and local prisons, all of whom were responsible for wholly avoidable crimes — if American lawmakers were really interested on making our communities safer.
Judd reminds us how the game continues to be played. “The smugglers are coaching them and telling them exactly what they need to say so all they have to do is come here and claim that they fear to go back to their country, and they don’t have to provide any evidence whatsoever,” he explains. As a result, “We’ll do hours’ worth of processing, and then we will turn them over to ICE and ICE will release them, based on what they call a credible fear, and [they] disappear in the shadows.”
Why does government remain so remiss? Judd believes too many officials are counting on Trump being defeated in 2020 and are “trying to wait him out.” In the meantime, he adds, they are “trying to throw a monkey wrench into everything he is trying to accomplish.”
How toxic is that mindset? Fred Burton, a counterterrorism expert and chief intelligence officer for Stratfor, believes it would take a “9/11 kind of moment — a weapon of mass destruction, an assassination of a key government official” before America took what he characterized as “draconian measures to secure the border.”
One of those “moments” has apparently arrived. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” President Trump stated Tuesday. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen clarified that Trump will send National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol, and that the White House had drafted legislation to close “loopholes” with regard to those seeking asylum.
Seemingly, that takes care of the “front door.” But there is still plenty of “interior” work left to do. “Since fiscal year (FY) 2016, more than 107,000 UACs have been released into the interior of the United States,” reveals a statement released Monday by the White House. It further notes “only 3.5 percent of UACs who are apprehended are eventually removed from the U.S.”
Thus, until equally “draconian measures” are applied to that reality, catch and release remains alive and well.
Update 4/7: President Trump signed a memo Friday ordering an end to catch and release practices.