Biden brings back controversial ‘catch and release’ immigration policy at Texas border despite Covid spread fears

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THE Biden administration has revived the “catch and release” policy which will see newly arrived illegal immigrants at the US-Mexico border released back into US cities.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking former President Donald Trump’s ending of the controversial practice — which allows undocumented migrants to remain in the US while awaiting immigration proceedings.

President Joe Biden has reintroduced a controversial 'catch and release' policy

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President Joe Biden has reintroduced a controversial 'catch and release' policyCredit: AP:Associated Press

A US Army soldier scans for undocumented immigrants near the US-Mexico border fence in Penitas, Texas.

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A US Army soldier scans for undocumented immigrants near the US-Mexico border fence in Penitas, Texas.Credit: Getty Images - Getty

Customs and Border Patrol said the shift in policy 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.

The move has caused volunteer groups in South Texas to scramble to try to help all new undocumented migrant arrivals who are paroled into the US before they board buses to other cities access coronavirus testing, according to reports.

Under court order, the Border Patrol is only permitted to hold migrants up to 72 hours. In some areas of Texas, where migrant apprehensions doubled in the last few months, sectors can no longer meet that mandate.

Compounding the problem, in some areas, Mexico is refusing to accept more families under Title 42, the pandemic order imposed by Trump to deny entry to any immigrant, including asylum seekers.

“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, a recent spike in migrant apprehensions has 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.

Undocumented migrants can only be detained for 72 hours, under court order.

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Undocumented migrants can only be detained for 72 hours, under court order.Credit: AFP or licensors

US Border Patrol officers keep along the border fence separating US and Mexico in the town of El Paso, Texas.

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US Border Patrol officers keep along the border fence separating US and Mexico in the town of El Paso, Texas.Credit: AFP - Getty

In Texas, a recent spike in migrant apprehensions has led to the US increasing beds for unaccompanied minors

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In Texas, a recent spike in migrant apprehensions has led to the US increasing beds for unaccompanied minorsCredit: Getty Images - Getty

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 who 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.

A Customs and Border Protection vehicle patrols in the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Texas.

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A Customs and Border Protection vehicle patrols in the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Texas.Credit: Getty Images - Getty

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News that the situation could snowball because of Mexico’s actions.

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Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News that the situation could snowball because of Mexico’s actions.Credit: AFP - Getty

The policy allowed the 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.”

Wolf and others said smugglers and Central American families will exploit the situation, funneling more migrants into weak areas, causing more releases.

"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," according to CBP Public Affairs Officer Rod Kise. 

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"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," Kise said.

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