- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2018

President Trump signed a directive Friday ordering the government to end the so-called “catch-and-release” policy at the border, moving to combat what the administration says is a growing “crisis” of illegal immigration.

He called for illegal immigrants nabbed at the border to be held in custody, to the fullest extent possible. He also ordered more asylum officers to head to detention centers so they can rule on cases faster, calculating that if they can clear the cases they can send undeserving migrants home without having to release them.

In a memo to his attorney general and secretaries of the State, Defense, Homeland and Health and Human Services departments, Mr. Trump also demanded regular updates on progress, and told them to submit requests for any new resources they need.

“The safety and security of the American people is the president’s highest priority, and he will keep his promise to protect our country and to ensure that our laws are respected,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Catch-and-release is the name Border Patrol agents and others involved in the immigration debate have given to the practice of arresting illegal immigrants, processing them and then having to set them free in the U.S., with the order that they return for a deportation hearing some time in the future.

They disappear into the shadows and most never bother to show for their hearings, which can be years later.

The Bush administration had tried to end catch-and-release by speeding up deportations of Mexicans. But a shift in migration patterns, with a surge in people from Central America — particularly children and families — has caused the issue to raise its head again.

U.S. law, court cases and Obama administration decisions have made it much tougher to deport those people, with a host of legal protections built up around them pushing for them to be released from custody if their cases can’t be cleared quickly.

Earlier Friday Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the southwest border to bring criminal misdemeanor charges against people who jump the border.

Mr. Trump’s new memo calls on Mr. Sessions and the other departments to crack down on abuse of the asylum system, after illegal immigrants have learned how to game the system by using “magic words” indicating they fear being sent back home.

Before 2013, only about 1 percent of migrants showing up on the border claimed asylum. Now the number is higher than 10 percent, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said this week.

“Smugglers themselves are gaming the system, pure and simple. They take advantage of the loopholes in our laws. They know that we cannot prosecute as we need to to stop their behavior,” she said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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