President Donald Trump has signed an order ending the so-called ‘catch and release’ policy, under which US immigration officers allowed the release of ‘caught’ illegal immigrants back on US soil, pending their immigration hearing.
“President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum to take important steps to end catch and release, the dangerous practice whereby aliens who have violated our Nation’s immigration laws are released into the United States shortly after their apprehension,” the White House said in a statement.
The White House justified ending the controversial policy, much criticized by Trump, by citing concerns about the American public’s “safety and security.” The US president also used the opportunity to once again call on the Democrats to end their “staunch opposition” to toughening border security measures.
While no set definition exists to the US “catch and release” policy, the practice has been applied mostly to asylum seekers and children of migrants, so they can stay out of custody while their cases pass through the US courts. The lengthy process, which can take years to complete, allows most to stay in the US illegally. Many of them do not show up for court dates and continue to stay in the US without authorization.
Almost immediately after assuming office in January 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order to expand the border wall with Mexico and increase the number of detention centers, to tackle the management of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. The order also mandated US authorities to assign asylum officers and immigration judges to the facilities, to conduct asylum interviews and hearings.
Currently, federal prisons, local jails as well as private companies are responsible for housing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. According to October estimates, between 31,000 and 41,000 illegals are kept there on a daily basis.
The omnibus spending bill, which Trump reluctantly signed on March 23 to avoid the government shutdown, allocated $1.6 billion for Trump to construct his wall with Mexico. The bill, however, also allocated some $3.1 billion to fund 40,520 immigration beds across detention facilities for FY 2018. That marked a 1,196-bed increase on FY 2017.