DHS ends "catch and release" policy for immigrant families

Immigrants who arrive illegally with their families at the border will no longer be released into the United States to await their immigration trials. This puts an end to the practice of "capture and release” (catch and releaseThe company's)

The new rule will begin to be implemented as of next week in order to deter families from attempting to cross the border illegally.

Acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan announced the measure during a conference before the Council on Foreign Relations.

"With some humanitarian and medical exceptions, DHS will no longer release family units from Border Patrol stations to the interior," McAleenan said.

According to DHSFamilies who do not have a credible fear claim will be returned to their home countries. If they have a credible fear claim, they will be returned to Mexico under the cover of the Migrant Protection Program (MPP)where they will have to wait for their cases to be processed.

McAleenan noted that FAMILY GROUPS have been the largest demographic group volume arriving at the border this year. In May there was a record number of arrestsof which 72% were of unaccompanied children and family units.

The measure will ease the process, "due to the inability of DHS to complete immigration proceedings with detained families in custody together," McAleenan said.

"This is a vital step toward restoring the rule of law and the integrity of our immigration system," he said, in addition to the fact that it "serves as a transition to full implementation of the final rule Floreswhich will allow DHS to keep families together through fair and expeditious immigration procedures.

Then, the Secretary McAleenan's speech September 23, 2019 (Spanish translation from Google Translate):

Thank you for the kind introduction. I want to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for the opportunity to be with you today for an important discussion on the state of border security and migration, and the continuing regional crisis affecting our border, and I also want to thank Fran Townsend for the opportunity to have a conversation about other Department of Homeland Security priorities as well.

I know many of you have been following the crisis on the Southwest border and tracking irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere. This situation has not only had obvious implications for our border security, but has led to a major humanitarian crisis and foreign policy challenge, in the United States and throughout the region. I would like to take the dialogue today above the headlines and the level of the daily news cycle, and look back at the challenges and our efforts to address them over the past year, and especially the past 3 months.

For a CFR audience, I don't think it is too controversial to state that developing a regional approach to migration is one of the most pressing national security interests of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most fundamental challenges for the region. large.

We have been leading this effort at the Department of Homeland Security, working with our partner governments to focus on both the push and pull factors that drive irregular migration.

At the same time, we recognize that one of the main factors contributing to this crisis is a problem we face at the national level, and that is weaknesses in our immigration legal framework.

I was hired as Acting Secretary at the height of this crisis, and I can tell you that at the peak of May we faced an extraordinarily challenging situation, with overcrowding at border facilities, daily arrivals of nearly 5,000 migrants, primarily families and children from Central America. We lacked effective tools to counter smugglers bringing unprecedented flows of migrants across our border, and lacked funding from Congress to quickly alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

Today, I am pleased to report that daily arrivals are down by 64% since the peak in May, and total enforcement actions for Central Americans arriving at the border are down by more than 70%.

And, critically, we have dramatically improved conditions and care at border facilities.

More generally, as of tomorrow, we expect to reach another milestone:

With some humanitarian and medical exceptions, DHS will no longer release family units from Border Patrol stations to the interior. This means that for family units, the largest demographic group by volume arriving at the border this year, the court-ordered practice of catch-and-release due to DHS's inability to complete immigration proceedings with families detained together in custody will have been mitigated. This is a vital step toward restoring the rule of law and the integrity of our immigration system.

Taken together, these improvements demonstrate significant progress, but I want to take a few minutes to lay out the scenario we were in four months ago, at the height of this crisis, the strategy and solutions we implemented to begin to address it, and why you believe continued efforts and partnerships are needed to permanently resolve it.

Summary of the crisis

To give you an idea of the sheer magnitude of the crisis our Department's workforce has faced this year: in May, the third of four consecutive months of more than 1,000 migrant arrivals, U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained or encountered more than 144,000 migrants at our southwest border: 90% of whom crossed illegally between ports of entry.

This was a modern record and included a day of more than 5,800 border crossings in a single 24-hour period. It also included the largest single group ever apprehended: 1,036 migrants crossing at one time in the El Paso sector.

Of our record number of apprehensions that month, 72% were of unaccompanied children and family units. Many of these migrants represented the most vulnerable populations in Central America, who placed their lives and those of their families in the hands of smugglers.

Despite the obvious dangers of the journey, smugglers have adapted their trade to exploit weaknesses in our immigration system. Their operations are highly sophisticated, with calculated planning on when and where to cross our borders.

With the overwhelming number of arrivals, DHS facilities at the border were overcrowded, resulting in very difficult humanitarian conditions. In some sectors, 50% of our agents were redirected to the processing and care of migrants, leaving key areas of the border weakened and necessitating the closure of checkpoints.

Although we warned of the growing crisis since December and requested additional humanitarian resources and legislative changes, Congressional action was unresponsive and the crisis escalated.

There are a number of reasons for the fundamental changes in migration patterns, but at their core, the push factors for migration are based on a clear economic opportunity gap, exacerbated by poverty and food insecurity, with continued high levels of violence in some areas of Central America.

Job creation has not been able to keep up with the job growth in Central America resulting in a severe shortage of opportunities, with only 1/5 of the jobs created in the region. º of needed jobs created each year by the number of young people entering the labor force in the Northern Triangle. This is the most important push factor.

Poverty and food insecurity are also key contributors. According to the UN World Food Program, 64% of Hondurans live below the poverty line, rural poverty is more severe, and 63% of Central American migrants cite lack of food as a primary incentive for migration.

Over the past decade, transnational criminal organizations have used the Central American corridor for a variety of illicit activities, including trafficking a significant percentage of cocaine to the United States. As a result, although the security situation is improving in all three countries, the region has experienced high rates of homicides and general crime committed by drug traffickers, gangs and other criminal groups.

Combined, these factors have created conditions that push many to make the dangerous trek north.

The pull factors, however, are even more significant. The strength of the U.S. economy, with historically low levels of unemployment, and the presence of significant diasporas of resourceful Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans are strong magnets.

But the main cause of the increases in arrivals this year is weaknesses in the U.S. immigration system, vulnerabilities in our legal framework, which allowed migrants, especially families and unaccompanied children, to remain in the U.S. for months or years, even though the vast majority will not ultimately receive legal status.

That is why, by the end of the fiscal year, we will see more than triple the record number of family units arriving at the border, with nearly 600,000, and a record number of unaccompanied minors.

I want to be clear on this point, the central factor driving this year's migration crisis has been the inability to achieve results from the immigration process that can be effected at the border for these demographics, at the time the migrants arrive. .

In short, the crisis stems from multifaceted problems, and clearly requires multiple solutions. Accordingly, we developed an aggressive and holistic strategy to mitigate the crisis within existing law.

The strategy sought to change the dynamics at the border through:

  • UNO, disrupting smuggling activity and reducing the unprecedented flow,
  • DOS, changing the way we process that flow to create greater integrity in the system by achieving immigration outcomes that can be effected at the border without being released to the United States.
  • And THREE, at the same time, we seek to urgently mitigate the humanitarian situation by providing better care to arriving migrants once they cross into the United States.


To reduce the flow, we realized that international partnerships would be essential:

We are working to develop operational and strategic partnerships in the region based on shared responsibility for the migration crisis.

Primarily, this has meant partnering with the Mexican government to increase border security and prevent transnational criminal organizations from preying on migrants transiting through the north, and to reduce irregular and illegal migration;

Second, it has meant building relationships and capacity with law enforcement, immigration and diplomatic authorities in the main countries of origin for migration to our border, Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador to address the root causes of migration, from security, economic and governance perspectives.


In terms of the reduction in flow through interdiction and disruption, the most important factor has been the effort of the Mexican government.

This has included the deployment of nearly 25,000 troops under the new Mexican National Guard; a focus on an increased presence along the Chiapas-Guatemala border; stopping the conveyor belt of large groups to the U.S. border; disruption of key transportation hubs; and, most importantly, a dramatic increase in human smuggling arrests and prosecutions.


The increase in human smuggling prosecutions has not been limited to Mexico alone. There have been more arrests and prosecutions of human smugglers initiated throughout Mexico and Central America in the past three months than in any three-year period in the region's history. For example, the Government of Honduras has arrested more human smugglers in the last 3 months than the total number of arrests of human smugglers in all of 2018.

Guatemala has significantly increased its police presence along its northern border with Mexico, and has adopted new techniques and technology to identify fraudulent documents and disrupt human smuggling networks. They also opened their doors to DHS and requested assistance in their efforts, both at and between ports of entry. Currently, DHS has more than 45 personnel supporting border operations in Guatemala.

El Salvador recently deployed 800 police and 300 immigration agents to patrol blind spots along its borders where migrant smugglers and transnational criminals operate. In addition, over the past two months, Salvadoran police have made more than 5,000 nationwide arrests of gang members as part of their national security plan.

In addition to these enforcement efforts, several countries have agreed to partner with the United States in a regional asylum framework, known as asylum cooperation agreements. Recognizing the decision of these countries to join the comprehensive refugee response framework (or MIRPS), and utilizing best practices from international organizations and the United States, these agreements will enhance collaboration and build protection capacity.

To that end, I am pleased to announce that the United States will provide $$ 47 million in assistance to build asylum capacity in Guatemala.

These international partnerships have paid dividends in ensuring effective immigration outcomes in Central America and also on our southern border.

Our partnerships are also having an impact on our border: working with Mexico and the three Central American partners, we have initiated or expanded programs that are resulting in more effective immigration outcomes for U.S. border arrivals as well.

Expedited deportation of migrants

Perhaps the most visible program resulting from our vigorous international efforts has been the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, established with Mexico earlier this fiscal year. Under MPP, eligible migrants who cross illegally or present themselves without documents at Ports of Entry are processed for expedited judicial hearings and returned to Mexico. They are then allowed access through U.S. ports of entry on the hearing dates.

MPP improves the integrity of the system by obtaining immigration court results at a much faster rate than the non-detained docket in the U.S., while keeping families together, and without to keep them in custody. It is expressly mandated by law and is carried out in partnership with Mexico, who has committed to appropriate humanitarian protections and work authorization in Mexico for migrants in the adjudication process.

Under MPP, we have provided successful protections to hundreds of asylum seekers, including those unique asylees who are provided protection immediately, if deemed too dangerous by the evidence of fear to return them to Mexico, as well as several who were found by immigration judges to have meritorious claims at the end of the expedited process in the first few months of operation.

MPP serves as a tool to provide expedited access and decisions for meritorious claims, and to deter individuals with inadequate or false asylum claims from illegally entering the United States. Previously, the system required release to the interior for a court date that could take 5 years.

This key change has led to a safer and more orderly process along the southwest border, and we are grateful for Mexico's cooperation with us in this effort.

In addition, DHS is expanding its electronic nationality verification program to expedite repatriations of Central American migrants. ENV provides us with the ability to return migrants without any fear claims to their countries of origin in an expedited manner by verifying their nationality electronically.

This program is an extension of pre-existing processes established with the Government of Mexico, which are applied and adapted to address today's irregular migration flows, mainly from Central America.

At these established levels at the border, we are working to build capacity to extend asylum protections in partner countries in the region and ensure that those in need of protection from persecution based on political, racial, religious or social groups can seek them as close to home as possible, without putting themselves and their families in the hands of dangerous smugglers.

Along with these efforts, we are also implementing new regulations designed to limit asylum abuse and preserve our critical commitments under international law, enact strict requirements for the conditions of care and custody of minors in federal detention, but we still believe that key legislative fixes are necessary for a lasting and comprehensive solution to the crisis.

Combined, international efforts and initiatives to improve immigration outcomes are having an impact.

I would like to highlight one more area of progress, perhaps the most fundamental when looking at the federal government's responsibilities to those in our custody, and that has been in the area of our efforts to improve care and conditions, alleviate overcrowding at the border facilities, provide access to showers and toiletries, hot meals, medical examinations and care, and sufficient transportation to ensure transfer to more appropriate settings in a timely manner.

Since receiving the emergency supplemental funding requested on May 1, the company has st by the end of June, DHS has:

  • More than 5,000 beds were added in temporary facilities, providing a more appropriate environment for families and children, and eliminating overcrowding of single adults;
  • HHS has also been able to add the necessary capacity for unaccompanied children upon request;
  • Access to showers at all major stations was ensured within 24-36 hours and accessibility of hot meals and age-appropriate meals was dramatically increased;

Since January, DHS has:

  • Increased the presence of certified medical professionals at border stations and POEs from approximately 20 to more than 200, ensuring that all children are examined;
  • Hired and purchased dozens of buses for large-scale inter-facility transportation;

As a result of all these efforts, from a peak of nearly 20,000 in total custody at the border, we now average 3,500-4,500, and the number of unaccompanied children has been reduced from over 2,700 to less than 150. Detention times at border stations have also been drastically reduced, with children moving into well-equipped HHS facilities in less than 24 hours. In short, we have a much better situation at border stations for migrants, thanks to the emergency funding we sought and obtained from Congress.

The efforts and actions we have taken over the past 6 months have focused on breaking the crisis, to protect vulnerable populations in the region and to restore a sense of integrity in our immigration system for border arrivals.

At the same time, we cannot allow our progress to cloud our vision.

We are still at crisis levels in illegal crossings at the southwest border, and until we change the fundamental laws governing our immigration system, we will not solve the underlying problem.

1500-2000 arrivals a day, with hundreds dying on the journey, is not an acceptable situation, not only in terms of the dangers at the crossing for migrants and the impact on our security missions, but also in terms of the regional impact. Our neighbors in Guatemala and Honduras will send 2.5% of their population to the U.S. border this year, an incalculable loss of energy and youth.

It is essential to expand the dialogue and work on solutions together, with Congress, with state and local partners, and with our neighbors.


In closing, I have the privilege of working alongside the Department's extraordinary workforce, and I can tell you that this crisis continues to weigh on our officers and agents at the border, and deplete the already limited resources of our components. They have done an incredible job, with heart and compassion under very difficult circumstances. They deserve our support and thanks.

Going forward, I know this audience understands that border security is national security. Migration crises cannot be addressed by any destination country alone. We must create a sense of shared responsibility and build the reality of effective capacity with our partners in the region, or our progress will not be sustainable.

We need your ideas and your voices.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with an update. I look forward to the rest of our dialogue.

i. U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2017, Volume 1: Drug and Chemical Control, March 2017, p.160.