Over the weekend, the president asserted that apprehended illegal aliens are not being let into our country. That is absolutely not the case, but the president does have the power to end catch-and-release. Why is talking about ending catch-and-release and not actually ending it?
Trump also declared this week in an interview with Breitbart, “I don’t want to have anyone coming in that’s on welfare.” Yet we are now bringing in hundreds of thousands of the most impoverished migrants through our border every year, and they will likely never be deported. Why is Trump so quiet since the data on the border emergency proved him right, and why is he not stepping up his game?
Catch-and-release at our border has gotten so bad that it has incentivized record numbers of impoverished Central Americans to surrender themselves to agents. This, in turn, creates such a shortage of beds that even the people who would otherwise not be released are now being released. They remain in our communities indefinitely, expose us to diseases, saddle taxpayers with public charge and crime, and tie up the resources of the border agents – all when we know the claim of asylum is bogus. The president is focusing his entire political capital in the emergency declaration on pennies in border wall funding, when these policies are causing us to bring in aliens from behind the border wall. Why is Trump not using his political capital to shut down catch-and-release and implement a true emergency plan that addresses the very emergency he decried and the media now admits exists?
Unfortunately, the illegal immigrants and the cartels don’t watch Trump’s CPAC speech or read his tweets. They look at what his government is actually doing on the ground at the border. Just since December 21, DHS has been forced to release 84,500 illegal aliens from Central American family units: 14,500 were in the Phoenix area, 37,500 in south Texas, 24,000 in El Paso, and 8,500 in San Diego, according to the Arizona Republic. Many of the ones dropped off this past weekend in Phoenix were in the country for less than 24 hours. Just from a health crisis standpoint, how can we be sure that Americans won’t be infected by those coming from places with rampant diseases when they are released so quickly?
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, who has watched every aspect of the immigration debate for decades, is wholly unimpressed with the administration’s half-hearted approach. “The Trump administration gives the impression that they have just given up on trying to preserve our border,” said Vaughan. “The top agency leaders like DHS Sec. Nielsen and CBP Director McAleenan are just throwing up their hands and saying, ‘We can’t do anything until Congress passes some new laws.’ They might as well be saying, ‘We can’t do anything until pigs fly.’ This administration is suffering from a lack of resolve, a lack of creative thinking, a lack of accountability, and a lack of leadership.”
For quite some time, I have noted that the president has declined to assert his ironclad power to block all immigration or foreign commerce on our soil. While the administration has announced a policy of returning some bogus asylum-seekers to Mexico at two points of entry, bizarrely, it has only selected 240 migrants for this new treatment. “That’s not enough to make a difference,” notes Vaughan.
Time will tell whether they expand this policy and are willing to tell the courts to stay in their lane.
Vaughan further notes that, with a declaration of an emergency, there is an entirely new power for the administration to tap in order to protect Americans from the effects of illegal immigration and deter future waves.
“If they are not going to use this policy [of denying claims on our soil], then another option would be to start following the official mass migration plan that was written and tested just before this crisis started in 2012-2013. This plan calls for DHS to stand up tent facilities adjacent to the existing detention centers used along the border and house illegal migrants there – even the families – in lieu of the dizzying catch-and-release process that is now the norm.”
This will ensure that aliens are kept quarantined away from our hospitals and communities and are not released on our dime. The president actually promised to do something similar last October when the problem wasn’t even as bad. “We’re going to build tent cities. We’re going to put tents up all over the place. We’re not going to build structures and spend all of this, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars — we’re going to have tents,” promised the president right before the midterm elections. Instead, we are actually building costly infrastructure for illegal aliens, expending enormous Border Patrol resources to house and transport them, and then we release them into our communities anyway.
According to Vaughan, centrally holding the migrants in several tent cities would also solve the catch-and-release problem and the self-fulfilling cycle of illegal aliens coming here to abscond their court dates.
“Under the law, CBP is allowed to detain families with kids for up to 72 hours, so they should process them within that period of time. They should operate like a night court, fulfilling the due process immediately, instead of dumping them on the existing immigration court system, which will take a minimum of eight years to complete the case, if they even show up, and most of them won’t. The courts are almost a farce right now; why carry on in this way? They could assign the asylum officers and judges to temporary emergency duty at the border – or better yet, hire some new temporary officers, such as retired USCIS and State Department officials, or others who can step in and adjudicate these cases according to the law as it is written. Such temporary duty is commonplace within DHS agencies and the State Department, and it should be done here. Heck, I’ll volunteer.”
Indeed, according to the DOJ’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, just in the first three months of this fiscal year, there were 17,200 removal orders issued in absentia. Meaning, even the people we get around to deporting wind up disappearing indefinitely and are added to the list of almost one million illegal aliens with final deportation orders who remain in the country. That is the lynchpin to the entire magnet at our border. Tent cities and a “rocket docket” of deportations in the contained detention area would cost a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the catch-and-release and will remove this magnet.
Thus, new migration can be chocked off by refusing to admit any new credible fear claims outside Mexico. Those already here can be sent to tent cities. What about those who have already absconded? Vaughan believes that it’s time we stop giving them de facto amnesty and extend our sovereignty over their lawlessness, which will further deter new migration.
“The president should direct ICE to create a list of all those who have absconded from the process by failing to appear for their court hearings or for removal. This is a felony, and criminal warrants should be issued. If any of these individuals is arrested for another crime, then the local law enforcement agency can hold them on ICE’s criminal warrant, and ICE can detain, process and remove them. In addition, ICE could staff special at-large enforcement teams to locate and remove them, using a share of its existing resources. … This job is no less important than other things ICE does like policing intellectual property violations and returning stolen antiquities.”
Obviously, ICE typically prioritizes the removal of the estimated two million criminal aliens in this country over other illegal aliens. But it would be worthwhile for them divert resources to specifically target those who abscond through catch-and-release because that is the primary cause of the current border crisis and it needs to be countered immediately.
The bottom line is the status quo is not an option, nor is expending all Trump’s political capital on $2.6 billion in funding. The president has broad authority to block immigration, regulate its flow, deport illegal aliens, change processing procedures, designate the cartels as terrorists, place the military at the border to counter the cartels, and deputize state and local law enforcement to help enforce immigration laws at the border. This needs to be an all-of-the-above approach, where all of Trump’s actions match his rhetoric of declaring an emergency. This will put him on firmer political ground and is better policy to stem the tide of illegal immigration and combat the cartels and drug trafficking.
As Jessica Vaughan warns, “If top administration officials are sitting around thinking that the situation will get so bad that Congress will have to act eventually, they are wrong.” She feels it’s time to open the tool box and use every option, including the emergency processing plan.
“I’m not in favor of executive power grabs, but I’m less in favor of open borders. It’s irresponsible to fail to act on this problem using the authorities that the president already has.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.