House committee demands answers from Mayorkas on catch-and-release policies

(The Center Square) – The U.S. House Oversight Committee is demanding that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas provide information about the department’s catch-and-release policy through which it’s released millions of foreign nationals into the country.

The policy has been struck down by a federal judge in a lawsuit brought by Florida, ruling it’s illegal.

Mayorkas has claimed that through the policy “the vast majority” of those applying for asylum claiming “credible fear” passed an initial screening by federal agents. Those who claim credible fear say they’d be in imminent danger if they were forced to return to their home countries.

In an interview with CNN last month, Mayorkas said, “The vast majority of those individuals have not sought to evade law enforcement, but have actually surrendered themselves to law enforcement and made a claim for relief under our laws … And so they make their claims, and the initial threshold for those claims under the law is lower than the ultimate asylum standard.”

However, in a letter to Mayorkas, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, told Mayorkas, “DHS’s own data contradict your statements. Only a fraction of the illegal aliens DHS personnel apprehend receive a credible fear screening prior to being released into the country.”

According to federal data for last December, for example, more than 140,000 of the 172,116 Title 8 apprehensions resulted in individuals being released into the U.S. but only 5,001 were referred for credible fear screenings. A similar pattern is reported in other months.

“Because of contradictory data posted on various DHS websites, however, it is impossible to know the extent of DHS’s catch and release policies,” Comer said. Instead of referring the majority who were released for credible fear screenings, Comer argues, Mayorkas’ “policy in most circumstances is to simply release illegal aliens into the country.”

The committee requested DHS provide all documents and communications on how many people were released into the U.S. This includes how many were processed under Title 8 who claimed they planned to apply for asylum and how many were referred to a credible fear screening. Among them, the committee asked for data on how many received a positive credible fear determination and how many were detained during their pending asylum applications, were paroled into the U.S., released with a notice to appear, released on recognizance, or released with instructions to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further processing (notice to report). The committee also asked how many received a negative credible fear determination.

It also asked for documents and communications about how many were processed under Title 8 who didn’t claim asylum and how many of them were removed from the U.S., paroled into the U.S., released with a notice to appear, released on recognizance, or released with a notice to report.

The committee also asked for all documents and communications on how many were processed under Title 8 who were referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution for a violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326, which governs illegal entry and reentry into the U.S.

The request was made after more than 1.6 million people were apprehended or reported evading capture by law enforcement after illegally entering the U.S. this fiscal year to date. Despite Mayorkas claiming the border is closed and secure and CBP reports it’s making progress on less apprehensions being reported, the committee says it’s investigating “the Biden administration’s creation of and failure to resolve the worst border crisis in American history.”

U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division ruled the Biden administration’s “catch-and-release” policy “effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country by prioritizing ‘alternatives to detention’ over actual detention and by releasing more than a million aliens into the country – on ‘parole’ or pursuant to the exercise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ under a wholly inapplicable statute – without even initiating removal proceedings.”

He also said the administration’s collective policies “were akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border.”

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