By Joe Guzzardi
November 19, 2017
President Trump returned from a five-nation Asia tour, claiming “tremendous success” and declaring that “America is back.” But while President Trump was nation-hopping, troubling news surfaced on immigration, his signature issue.
Down on the Texas-Mexico border, Border Patrol supervisors have advised agents to release illegal aliens that they may apprehend during the course of their daily duties. Never mind turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for prompt deportations. Not enough beds are available to house the illegal crossers. With its ominous implications for illegal immigration increases, catch-and-release is back!
Brandon Judd, an agent and the National Border Patrol Council president, said that the bed shortage is so acute that remanding aliens to ICE is pointless. Judd then made the troubling prediction that once word gets out that catch-and-release is again in play, an illegal immigrant surge won’t be far behind. Doubtlessly, prospective border crossers would be energized by the news that, if apprehended, they would be only briefly detained, and would soon be on their way to the interior of the United States where they might remain undetected for the rest of their lives as millions before them have.
Judd added that evidence is mounting that more aliens are headed to the border, confident that they’ll be released. In April, the Border Patrol set a modern-day record low of slightly more than 11,100 illegal immigrants apprehended. But as catch-and-release again became the norm and foreign nationals from as far away as India knew that illegal entry had a higher success probability, by October agents detained more than 26,000 illegal immigrants. As the initial deterrent effect of President Trump’s earlier tough enforcement talk harsh wore off, illegal immigrants became bolder.
Catch-and-release, a thorn in enforcement advocates’ sides since the Bush 41 era, reflects the lack of political will, a more important variable than inadequate housing.
For many, the argument that ICE with its multi-billion dollar annual budget can’t figure out a way to acquire more beds doesn’t wash. In May, Congress approved funding for 5,300 detention beds, a total less than half of what President Trump requested. At least part of the blame rests with Congress for not appropriating enough money. Six months ago, illegal crossings were down, and some members pointed to declining illegal immigration as a reason not to provide additional funding. But immigration history shows peaks and valleys in illegal entry flows, and Congress should have anticipated an eventual spike.
President Trump wants to do more; he requested more beds. ICE and border patrol agents are dedicated to doing their jobs. As one U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told The Washington Times, “We are in the business of catch and remove, not release.”
But someone is gumming up President Trump’s efforts to restore credibility to U.S. immigration, and that someone is Obama era holdovers. In the same Washington Times story, Judd and Chris Crane, National ICE Council president, said Obama era holdovers are “still running the program, running the show,” and defiant courts are refusing to carry out President Trump’s mission to slow illegal immigration.
President Trump is learning the hard way and from personal experience that it takes more than one person to drain the swamp.
By Joe Guzzardi