The Biden administration has revived the so-called “catch and release” system when it comes to dealing with illegal immigrants at the southern border.
President Biden on Tuesday signed an executive order revoking former President Trump’s end of the controversial practice — which allows undocumented migrants to remain in the US while awaiting immigration proceedings.
Customs and Border Patrol said the shift in policy change was result of three issues — the influx of migrants and children from Central America, Mexico’s refusal to take in families with children under 12 and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the agency’s detention facilities and transportation capacity, Fox News reported.
The executive order — part of sweeping changes Biden has already made to immigration policy — only permits Border Patrol to hold an undocumented illegal alien crossing the border up to 72 hours.
“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 told Fox News.
“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.”
In Texas, where migrant apprehensions have doubled in recent months, that’s led to the US increasing beds for unaccompanied minors to 700 at a shelter in Carizzo Springs, Fox News said. A facility in Donna also received 500 extra beds.
The swell of illegal immigrants has raised health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Federal officers are not doing any COVID testing for immigrants coming across,” McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez told the outlet. “So we actually reached out to the state of Texas, to the governor’s office. And they quickly sent us thousands of test kits so that we could supply the charity taking these people in.”
Rodriguez said other problems include transporting the migrant families to various charities.
But he also expressed concern about Mexico refusing to take in migrants that are denied entry to the US under the Trump-invoked Title 42, which allows authorities to turn them away during the health crisis, essentially closing the Mexico border.
The policy allowed Border Patrol to expel thousands of adults arrested in the US for trespassing.
“There’s probably thousands of immigrants still waiting to come across right here, six miles from me,” said Rodriguez. “Cities like Matamoros have been dealing with that since the policy was to send them back to Mexico. So there may be a new policy moving forward and we’ve got to deal with whatever that is.”
Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News that the situation could snowball because of Mexico’s actions.
“It’s a significant development that they’re not taking certain family units back under Title 42,” Wolf said. “That’s very concerning, because if you’re just doing that in one or two sectors, it’s likely going to manifest itself across that border in the very near future.”