Not Just Trump: Immigrants Coming To The US Are Banking On A Catch & Release Program

As we reported last week, a looming Trump presidency has generated a surge in immigrants trying to cross the southern border of the United States.

From October 2015 to March of this year, the US Border Patrol apprehensions averaged 330 Central Americans a day, an increase of 100 percent over the same period a year earlier according to the Pew Research Center. The issue has even prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to travel to Central America to remind everyone in person that the US border is not open.

"I am here today to send a message that our borders in the United States are not open to irregular migration" Johnson said.

Despite the nice speech from Jeh Johnson, family holding facilities are full on the southern border, and the need for supplies at places such as Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has skyrocketed.

"It's like 50, 60, 100, 200 backpacks that we need every day; 200, or 50 or 80 deodorants or shoes. Can you imagine coming up with 50, 60, 80 pairs of shoes every day? It's amazing." said Sister Norma Pimentel, director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

Border Patrol agents are becoming frustrated, and the root cause of the frustration is that there is a catch and release program taking place. The time it is taking for agents to round up and process those who turn themselves in asking for asylum (just to release them into the US) is taking away from capturing the immigrants who aren't looking to turn themselves in to anyone - drug traffickers for example.

Union president Brandon Judd testified at a congressional hearing that if immigrants are arrested and ask for asylum, they're being allowed to get processed and move along on their journey to join family members elsewhere in the US while they await their hearing. The hearing itself could take up to two years, as the courts currently have a backlog of nearly a half a million cases. The reason being given is that the US court rulings restrict the agency's ability to detain those arrested.

"What happens is if you are arrested in the United States and you ask for any sort of asylum, what we do is we will process you, and we will walk you right out our front door, give you a pat on the back and say, 'Welcome to the United States.' And they're good to go," Judd testified at the hearing.

Chris Cabrera, a south Texas Border Patrol agent and union official says all the families surrendering to seek asylum are distracting his member agents, when they should be chasing drug and human traffickers.

"Our agents are so caught up with rounding up the ones that are turning themselves in, corralling them and getting them to the station, that we don't have adequate resources to get the ones that are trying to get away," Cabrera said.

And as it turns out, it's not just a looming Trump presidency that is driving the surge in immigrants to the US, it's an expectation of the immigrants that when they are arrested, they'll be processed and released, free to go in the United States.

From WCQS

Central Americans risk the journey because they know most of them will be admitted at the U.S. border and not locked up, as are immigrants from Mexico who cross illegally.

 

Wendy Villanueva is from Honduras, traveling with her toddler daughter. The 21-year-old says they fled Colón Province when gangsters extorted her small clothing business and threatened to kill her if she didn't pay up.

 

Villanueva and her daughter took buses to the Texas-Mexico border and surrendered to U.S. agents on the international bridge at Brownsville. They're headed to North Carolina to join her mother and sisters, who are also seeking amnesty.

 

"According to our countrymen who are here, and from what they learned, we expect that the authorities will also give us permission to remain here," she says, waiting to collect some new clothes and hygiene items at the shelter for the next leg of her journey north.

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Whatever one's politics are on the issue, as we say time and time again, if the economy isn't performing well, violence will continue and so will the surge of immigrants trying to find safety and a better way of life. It's also worth noting, that no matter how effective a wall may be, if there is a catch and release program taking place it defeats the entire purpose of building a wall in the first place.

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