The Biden administration has reportedly revived a controversial immigration policy called “catch-and-release,” which allows border-jumpers seeking asylum to remain in the United States while awaiting adjudication.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was forced to embrace the policy following a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border that would have required housing illegal immigrants — a situation the Biden administration would prefer to avoid after criticizing the Trump administration for putting “kids in cages” in temporary holding facilities at the border.
“This is the first time since the surge of 2019 that CBP has been compelled to revive the controversial policy,” Fox News reported Friday. “It raises concerns the Biden administration’s softer, more welcoming approach will trigger a wave of migrants from Central America that could overwhelm the agency’s limited detention capacity.”
The Trump administration ended the “catch-and-release” policy amid concerns that it was encouraging illegal immigration by allowing asylum seekers to stay in the United States pending a hearing on their claims — hearings that many, the Trump administration claimed, never attended.
Once in the US, CBP can only hold border-jumpers for 72 hours.
The Trump administration inked a deal with Mexico to allow asylum seekers to “remain in Mexico” while awaiting hearings, avoiding the 72-hour time limit.
The new administration’s border policies have had a marked effect on illegal immigration at the southern border, Fox News noted, leading to the revival of “catch-and-release.”
“CBP said three factors led to the decision to release illegal immigrant families: an increase of migrant traffic, specifically families from Central America and unaccompanied children; Mexico’s refusal to accept additional families with children under age 12 in areas where migrants camps grow increasingly large, overwhelming the shelter and services; and COVID-19, which has severely reduced Border Patrol detention and transport capacity,” the outlet reported.
“CBP has seen a steady increase in border encounters since April 2020, which, aggravated by COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, has caused some facilities to reach maximum safe holding capacity,” a CBP official told the network.
“Per longstanding practice, when long-term holding solutions aren’t possible, some migrants will be processed for removal, provided a Notice to Appear, and released into the U.S. to await a future immigration hearing,” the spokesman continued. “As the administration reviews the current immigration process, balancing it against the ongoing pandemic, we will continue to use all current authorities to avoid keeping individuals in a congregate setting for any length of time.”
Texas officials, though, are concerned not just because of the influx of immigrants, but because of the pandemic. Individuals who come across the southern border illegally are not being screened for COVID-19, raising the issue that they could be spreading the virus when they are released into target cities.
The Biden administration is reportedly working on crafting a comprehensive immigration reform plan to address the issue but has yet to introduce any legislation.