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Trump Signs Executive Order to End “Catch and Release”

On April 6, 2018, the Trump administration announced that it was ending the practice called “catch and release” at the United States-Mexico border. “Catch and Release” is the unofficial name of a protocol that has been followed by immigration enforcement officers for decades where people caught in unlawful immigration status are released while waiting for a hearing with an immigration judge. Due to the lack of resources available to immigration enforcement officials to detain larger number of people, as well as the lengthy time period between apprehension and deportation, which can sometimes take up to years, catch and release has been the de facto policy following by immigration enforcement. Those who are caught are given a date where they are ordered to appear before an immigration judge for a deportation hearing, however, knowing that coming to a hearing could lead to them being deported, many individuals would fail to turn up.

Under the previous administration, only those who “pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety” and those who are “misdemeanants” were caught. Border Patrol officers were advised to not waste resources on arresting other immigration violators, but instead focus on catching the first two. While no set definition existed for the policy, the practice has mostly been applied to asylum seekers and children of migrants, so they can stay out of custody while their cases passed through the U.S. courts.

In Trump’s April memorandum, the administration ordered government official to prepare a list of facilities, which includes military facilities, where additional detainees could be held. Now, the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice and Health and Human Services have 45 days to report to the president their efforts to ensure that those immigrants are detained, including the allocation of money to build detention facilities near the border as the memorandum did not provide any additional funds for detainment. This move also came with Trump ordering the National Guard to patrol the southwestern border, a move formalized on the same day when Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis signed orders to deploy up to 4,000 troops to the border.

The memorandum appears intended to prod the administration to move more rapidly in cracking down unauthorized immigrants at the border, a goal that was laid out extensively during Trump’s presidential campaign. So far this year, the Trump administration has already ordered Border Agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to refuse the release of pregnant detainees from immigration custody, rescinded temporary protected status for  Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua Liberia, and Sudan nationals, and cancelled DACA.

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