The Biden administration has revived the controversial policy of “catch and release” of illegal immigrants entering into the United States through the nation’s southern border, to reduce the number of illegal immigrants housed by the government.
The policy allows border-jumpers to remain in the United States while seeking political asylum, without being housed in temporary detention centers.
The renewal of the policy comes in the wake of a surge of illegal immigration from Honduras and other Central American countries through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Members of the Biden administration had previously criticized the Trump administration for getting rid of the policy and placing illegal immigrants into detention facilities close to the southern border — a practice that Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media widely referred to as putting “kids in cages.”
The Trump administration terminated catch and release over concerns that it encouraged illegal immigration by allowing asylum seekers to stay in the United States pending a hearing on their claims, which the Trump administration claimed were rarely attended. Upon arrival to the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were only allowed to hold asylum seekers for a maximum of 72 hours.
The Trump administration reached an agreement with Mexico to hold asylum seekers on the southern side of the border while awaiting hearings, effectively circumventing the 72-hour limit.
“This is the first time since the surge of 2019 that CBP has been compelled to revive the controversial policy,” Fox News reported. “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.”
According to Fox News, the Biden administration’s softer approach towards asylum seekers stemmed from three factors, including “an increase in 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.”
“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 said.
Texas officials have raised alarm over the policy, not only due to the increased traffic, but also because of the pandemic. Individuals who enter through the southern border are not being screened for COVID-19, raising fears that their entry could lead to an increase in cases in Texas cities upon their release from CBP custody.
The Biden administration has yet to produce a comprehensive plan to address these concerns.