The Biden administration is bringing back the so-called “catch and release” policy at the southern border just as illegal border crossings are spiking and overwhelming detention facilities.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reimplementing the Obama-era policy of releasing newly-apprehended migrants back into U.S. cities along the South Texas border, citing coronavirus concerns at detention facilities as well as the rising numbers of apprehended migrants.
The pandemic has hampered the CBP’s ability to house and transport detained migrants, the agency said, and meanwhile the number of migrants arriving at the border and crossing into the U.S. illegally is spiking, especially unaccompanied children and families from Central America. Some of the new migrants said that violence and poverty in their home countries as well as promises of a more welcoming U.S. under President Biden prompted their decision to undertake the journey north to the U.S. border.
Additionally, Mexico refuses to accept families with children under age 12 in areas with large and growing migrant camps, CBP said.
“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,” CBP Public Affairs Officer Rod Kise said.
“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. 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,” Kise continued.
On Tuesday, President Biden signed an executive order rescinding a Trump administration order ending the “catch and release” policy and directing other enhancements to immigration enforcement.
Former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf warned Friday that illegal border crossings have soared in recent months, creating a “very dangerous” situation at the southern border.
CBP is currently facing between 3,000 and 3,500 illegal border crossings every day, Wolf said. He noted that in 2019, former Obama administration DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said that 1,000 illegal crossings overwhelms the system, calling 4,000 apprehensions in a day “crisis” level.
The surge of illegal border crossings in 2019 was the last time CBP was forced to revive the catch and release policy.
Wolf also pointed out that Border Patrol agents arrested eleven Iranian citizens Monday night near San Luis, Arizona after they crossed the border illegally.