The White House Memo on "Catch and Release" explained

Image source:  Wikimedia Commons

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration recently issued a memorandum to end the “catch and release” policy at the border and directing other enhancements to immigration enforcement.

What is the “catch and release” policy referred by President Trump?

The practice that is being referred to is one in which undocumented immigrants caught by border agents or those who present themselves at the border without immigration documentation are released from detention while waiting for their deportation cases to be adjudicated.

This memo does not, on its own, toughen immigration policy or take concrete steps to do so; it merely directs officials to report to the president about steps they are taking to “expeditiously end ‘catch and release’ practices.” The memo is the President's use of executive power to demonstrate that the administration is even more rapidly in cracking down on unauthorized immigrants at the border, a goal laid out in an executive order Mr. Trump issued last year during his first week in office.

It caps a week that began with the president offering tough talk on immigration and ended with his ordering the National Guard to patrol the southwestern border, a move formalized on Friday night when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed orders to deploy up to 4,000 troops. Also last week, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it will start the use of mobile apps and drones to detect unauthorized border crossings.

What does the Trump administration propose instead of this policy?

In the memo, among other things, the President advocates for the dramatically expand the use of “expedited removal.” Created in 1996, expedited removal is a process by which low-level immigration officers can quickly deport certain noncitizens who are undocumented or have committed fraud or misrepresentation. Since 2004, immigration officials have used expedited removal to deport individuals who arrive at our border, as well as individuals who entered without authorization if they are apprehended within two weeks of arrival and within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border.

One of the major problems with expedited removal is that the immigration officer making the decision virtually has unchecked authority. Individuals in expedited removal rarely see the inside of a courtroom because they are not afforded a regular immigration court hearing before a judge. In essence, the immigration officer serves both as prosecutor and judge. Given the speed at which the process takes place, there is rarely an opportunity to collect evidence or consult with an attorney, family member, or friend before the decision is made.

Thus, there is a greater chance that persons are being erroneously deported from the United States, potentially to imminent harm or death. Individuals who may otherwise qualify for deportation relief if they could defend themselves in immigration court are unjustly deprived of any opportunity to do so. A dramatic expansion, as directed by President Trump, might result in thousands of additional deportations without due process.

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