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Trump Signs Memo Ordering End to ‘Catch and Release’ Immigration Policy

9 Apr


President Trump issued a memorandum on Friday directing his administration to move quickly to bring an end to “catch and release,” the practice by which immigrants presenting themselves at the border without authorization are released from detention while waiting for their cases to be processed.

The directive does not, on its own, toughen immigration policy or take concrete steps to do so; it merely directs officials to report to the president about steps they are taking to “expeditiously end ‘catch and release’ practices.” But it is a symbolic move by Mr. Trump to use his executive action to solve a problem that he has bitterly complained Congress will not.

It also caps a week that began with the president offering tough talk on immigration and ended with his ordering the National Guard to patrol the southwestern border, a move formalized on Friday night when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed orders to deploy up to 4,000 troops.

“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,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement announcing the memorandum.

“At the same time, the president continues to call on congressional Democrats to cease their staunch opposition to border security and to stop blocking measures that are vital to the safety and security of the United States,” she added.

The memo appears intended to prod the administration to move more rapidly in cracking down on unauthorized immigrants at the border, a goal laid out in an executive order Mr. Trump issued last year during his first week in office.

The latest directive instructs the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice and Health and Human Services to report to the president within 45 days on their efforts to ensure that those immigrants are detained, including steps taken to allocate money to build detention facilities near the borders. The agencies must also detail efforts to ensure unauthorized entrants do not “exploit” parole and asylum laws to stay in the United States, including evaluating how they determine whether migrants have “credible fear” of returning to their country of origin — the legal bar that people claiming asylum must meet to avoid prompt removal.

The memo also orders a list of existing facilities, including military sites, that could be used to detain those violating immigration law, and detailed statistics on credible claims of fear and how they have been processed since 2009.

The directive gives officials 75 days to report to Mr. Trump on additional resources or authorities they need to end catch-and-release practices. And within 60 days, it asks the secretaries of state and homeland security to submit a report on actions they are taking against countries that “refuse to expeditiously accept the repatriation of their nationals,” including whether the United States has punished them by refusing to grant visas to their citizens — and if not, why not.