On Thursday, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, Brandon Judd, informed the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have been told to release illegal immigrants and eschew ordering them to appear at deportation hearing.
Judd stated, "We might as well abolish our immigration laws altogether," adding that the reason the Obama Administration changed the policy out of "embarrassment" that only roughly half of illegals ordered to appear in court follow through. He continued, "The willful failure to show up for court appearances by persons that were arrested and released by the Border Patrol has become an extreme embarrassment for the Department of Homeland Security. It has been so embarrassing that DHS and the U.S. attorney's office has come up with a new policy,"
Judd explained that the order given agents "makes mandatory the release, without an NTA, of any person arrested by the Border Patrol for being in the country illegally, as long as they do not have a previous felony arrest conviction and as long as they claim to have been continuously in the United States since January of 2014. The operative word in this policy is 'claim.' The policy does not require the person to prove they have been here which is the same burden placed on them during deportation proceedings. Instead, it simply requires them to claim to have been here since January of 2014." He added that border agents refer to the Notices to Appear as "notices to disappear."
Judd pointed out the consequences of releasing the immigrants outright: "Not only do we release these individuals that by law are subject to removal proceedings, we do it without any means of tracking their whereabouts. Agents believe this exploitable policy was set in place because DHS was embarrassed at the sheer number of those who choose not to follow the law by showing up for their court appearances. In essence, we pull these persons out of the shadows and into the light just to release them right back to those same shadows from whence they came," he said.
After noting that the new policy had encouraged thousands of additional immigrants, Judd concluded, "Immigration laws today appear to be mere suggestions. There are little or no consequences for breaking the laws and that fact is well known in other countries. If government agencies like DHS or CBP are allowed to bypass Congress by legislating through policy, we might as well abolish our immigration laws altogether.”
Department of Homeland Security spokesman Michael Friel fired back:
The U.S. Border Patrol continues to enforce immigration laws consistent with the department's enforcement priorities, which are focused on border security, national security, and public safety. As secretary [Jeh] Johnson has said many times, our border is not open to illegal migration and those who do so will be sent back. The Border Patrol's resources are most effectively focused on the border – prioritizing the apprehension and removal of individuals attempting to unlawfully enter the United States. Our removal numbers reflect that. Border Patrol agents are issuing Notices to Appear, consistent with law, regulation, and the department's enforcement priorities.
Judd said there was an insidious plot laid by drug cartels as they helped children cross the border, asserting, "The unaccompanied minors could have walked right up to the Port of Entry and asked for asylum. Why did the cartels drive them to the middle of the desert and then have them cross over the Rio Grande only to surrender to the first Border Patrol agent they came across? The reason is that it completely tied up our manpower and allowed the cartels to smuggle whatever they wanted across our border."
"We might as well abolish our immigration laws altogether."
Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council
Jessica M. Vaughan, the policy director for the Center for Immigration Studies, warned the subcommittee "the tide of new young people, many of whom have already been exposed or involved in street gangs at home, has provided a huge pool of new recruits for the gangs here. Gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street are enjoying a brutal revival in certain parts of the country and are establishing themselves in new places."