DHS chief calls for 5,000 more border agents, end of ‘catch-and-release’ policies

DHS chief calls for 5,000 more border agents, end of ‘catch-and-release’ policies
DHS Secretary John Kelly (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has called for increased Border Patrol agents and the end of so-called “catch-and-release” policies.

In two memos issued Tuesday, the DHS took steps toward implementing President Donald Trump’s immigration-related executive order, which called for the removal of people in the U.S. illegally who “have been convicted of any criminal offense,” “have been charged with any criminal offense,” “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” or “are subject to a final order of removal.”

Kelly instructed the DHS to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents in an effort to meet the White House’s broadening of the federal government’s priorities regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants. In addition, he called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 new officials to tackle increased immigration enforcement.

The biggest shift, though, is in Kelly’s order to end “catch-and-release” policies that allow illegal immigrants to remain freely in the U.S. while they await hearings on their legal status in the future.

“If an immigration officer determines that an arriving alien is inadmissible to the United States under [existing law], the officer shall, consistent with all applicable laws, order the alien removed from the United States without further hearing or review, unless the alien is an unaccompanied alien child,” the memo reads.

The memorandum also makes allowances for those applying for asylum in the United States.

Asylum seekers must establish to immigration officials that they have a “‘credible fear’ of persecution or torture” in returning to their home country. The immigrant must also make clear they present “neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding and will “comply with any additional conditions of release imposed by ICE to ensure public safety and appearance at any removal hearings.”

Kelly also called on all state and local law enforcement departments to comply with immigration enforcement protocol, instructing high-level DHS officials “to engage immediately with all willing and qualified law enforcement jurisdictions” to organize immigration enforcement activity.

“Empowering state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is critical to an effective enforcement strategy,” Kelly wrote.

The push to engage state-level and local agencies follows Trump’s executive order directing all federal law enforcement agencies to “employ all lawful means” to enforce current immigration laws and make sanctuary cities ineligible for federal funding.

A sanctuary city is a municipality that that blocks local funds or resources from being used to enforce federal immigration laws, thereby providing safe haven to immigrants living in the city illegally.