On January 27, Bill Melugin from Fox News reported that illegal migrants — including some with criminal records — are being released at the Southwest border in Texas. That’s bad. What’s worse, however, is that taxpayers are paying the fees for some of those migrants to travel into the interior, with one ICE agent complaining: “The Biden administration has turned ICE ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] into an unofficial travel coordination agency”.
DHS “Discreetly” Releasing Illegal Migrants. This report follows video from Brownsville, Texas, of single adults — mostly males — being released and transported to flights at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, to hop planes to Atlanta, Houston, and Miami.
An unidentified ICE agent told Melugin that “this has been discreetly going on since last spring”, and that his agency “has been releasing migrants with misdemeanor criminal records including assault, DUI, drug possession, and illegal reentry”. When Melugin asked ICE about this scheme, the agency did not deny it.
DHS Lacks Authority to Release Illegal Migrants and Certain Criminals. There is so much wrong here, and by “wrong”, I mean in blatant violation of clear mandates in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
As I have explained many times before, DHS has two choices when it apprehends illegal migrants at the border. Section 235(b)(1) of the INA allows the department to process those migrants for “expedited removal”, meaning that they can be quickly removed without appearing before an immigration judge.
If those migrants in expedited removal are found to have a credible fear of returning to the home country, however, they are to be placed into removal proceedings where they can seek asylum from an immigration judge.
The other option for DHS, under section 235(b)(2) of the INA, is to place those migrants directly into removal proceedings.
Regardless of whether those aliens are processed under section 235(b)(1) or (2) of the INA, however, they are supposed to be detained until they are granted relief from removal or protection on the one hand or removed on the other. They cannot be released.
DHS apparently (and I only say “apparently” because the Biden administration isn’t publicly explaining exactly what it is doing) believes that it can release those aliens under section 236(a)(1) of the INA. That provision allows DHS to either detain aliens that it arrests on immigration warrants, or alternatively to release those aliens on a bond of at least $1,500 or “conditional parole”.
Back in October, however, I explained that section 236(a) of the INA does not apply to illegal migrants encountered by CBP at the border because they are not arrested on warrants — those are “warrantless” arrests under section 287(a)(2) of the INA. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — whose jurisdiction covers Texas — appears to be headed toward the same conclusion.
Even if, however, DHS could release illegal migrants under section 236(a) of the INA, section 236(c) of the INA requires DHS to detain certain criminal aliens. Aliens with drug possession convictions are subject to such “mandatory detention”, and other crimes Melugin referenced may be.
Taxpayers “Footing the Bill for Migrant Travel”. Melugin also asked the ICE agent whether “U.S. taxpayers were footing the bill for migrant travel”. The agent explained that they work with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which then go to the families of those migrants to ask for an address in the United States and for a bus or plane ticket for the migrants “to the city of their choosing”.
“If that doesn’t happen, the NGO will buy the ticket themselves, then bill the federal government for reimbursement.” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen may be writing the check, but the money is coming out of your pocket.
ICE “Morale Has Never Been Lower”. Needless to say, this revolving door at the border has taken a toll on the ICE agents who are unwilling participants in this “catch and transport” scheme.
The agent told Melugin “that he feels the Biden administration has turned ICE ERO into an unofficial travel coordination agency, and morale has never been lower”.
Regrettably, that is a natural reaction, but the administration’s actions have not been unexpected.
Back in late May, the Washington Post ran an article captioned “Biden administration reins in street-level enforcement by ICE as officials try to refocus agency mission”, as if ICE officers under the Trump administration had been grabbing random people off the street and deporting them (they weren’t).
Here is the key line in that report, however: “ICE under President Biden is an agency on probation.” Respectfully, ICE ERO under the Biden administration is not on probation — rather, ICE officers are being actively and deliberately punished by being forced to violate their oaths.
Here is ERO’s mission statement: “ERO protects the homeland through the arrest and removal of [aliens] who undermine the safety of our communities and the integrity of our immigration laws.”
It is beyond cavil that drunk drivers and criminals with assault records “undermine the safety of our communities”, while serial border offenders not only “undermine the integrity of our immigration laws” — they blatantly flaunt them.
Why is ICE being punished? It appears to be nothing more than simple math in the minds of many of the president’s advisors: Donald Trump liked immigration enforcement; ICE does immigration enforcement; Trump = bad; so through the transitive property, ICE = bad.
Of course, ICE never did anything Congress didn’t tell them to do, but in the opinion of the White House it deserves to be punished by being forced to do the opposite of what its agents signed up for. Instead of keeping illegal migrants out of the United States, ICE must help them get in.
That said, you are being punished, too. The citizens of the United States elected the representatives who wrote the immigration mandates the Biden administration is now ignoring, and American taxpayers are now being forced to pay to send illegal migrants — including criminals — into communities nationwide.