Catch and release program could end after vote on border security funding

Congress is expected to vote on the biggest increase in border security funding in a long time this week, highlighting a package that, according to a news release from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, will put “more boots on the ground,” put an end to “catch and release” and include “stronger investigations.”

Catch and release is a program where those caught with unlawful immigration status are released while they wait on an immigration judge for a hearing. According to Ryan’s release, the program will see its end as “funding for tens of thousands of detention beds, electronic monitoring, and GPS tracking—not to mention the hiring of additional officers in the field — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will have the resources they need to get the job done.”

Thousands of catch-and-release men, women and children have spent time at the Sacred Heart Respite Center in McAllen. According to Sister Norma Pimentel last month, the center is already seeing a record low number of catch-and-release victims take shelter at the center prior to continuing onto the next phase of their journey.

More than $12 billion – $911 million more than last year – in funding is expected to be used to hire more agents, enhance technology and provide better tools to stem the flow of “illegal activities across our border, as President Trump requested in his own budget amendment,” according to the release.

The funding is also expected to create stronger investigations. ICE will receive an additional $92 million to use toward cybercrimes, drug smuggling, human trafficking, child exploitation and other crimes.”

In February, Ryan visited McAllen and the border to observe border operations. Upon his departure from McAllen and arrival in Washington, D.C., he said “When you see with your own eyes the many challenges facing our law enforcement professionals along the border, it gives you even greater respect for the work that they do day-in and day-out. But more tools and more support are needed for them to do their jobs effectively. Congress is committed to securing the border and enforcing our laws, and together with the Trump administration, we will get this done.”