Catch and Release Redux

By Janice Kephart on October 6, 2009

The Obama Administration is ignoring hard and unpleasant lessons learned from decades of prior failed immigration policies. "Alternatives to Detention" (ATD) is just another way to say "Catch and Release," which was the thorn in the side of the prior administration until they stopped it and put rule of law in place. Although managing detention facilities and their population well is a good goal, simply doing it by reducing the illegal population and dispersing them back into American communities does not help enforce immigration law or make our communities more secure.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The DHS fact sheet on detention policy, released today, is available online.

A regression in detention policy would likely expose us to national security issues anew, and re-expose us to policies that often could not catch most of the illegal population that were released from detention, despite immense resources spent on finding these individuals. The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General had found that the old INS, under similar policies, was able to remove only 13% of non-detained aliens with final orders of removal, and only 6% of non-detained aliens from state sponsors of terrorism who had final removal orders. None of us can forget all the stories of illegal criminals on the loose, let alone terrorists. If that is a problem now with an increase in violent criminal gang activity like the MS-13, this new DHS policy announced by Secretary Napolitano today exacerbates it further.

While "Catch and Release" is a euphemism used to describe a policy for illegal aliens, recall that many terrorists have abused a similar flaw in the asylum process. Just as a reminder, the following terrorists applied for asylum, were released pending their hearings, and used their freedom to commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts.

  • Mir Aimal Kansi murdered two CIA employees.
  • Ramzi Yousef masterminded the first World Trade Center attack.
  • Shahawar Matin Siraj was arrested for plotting to bomb a subway station.
  • Sheik Umar Abd ar-Rahman plotted to bomb New York City landmarks.
  • Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot and killed two people in Los Angeles.

The Department of Justice Inspector General was concerned that the immigration service “does not actively pursue denied asylum seekers . . . . [and] because that group may include potential terrorists, it would be imprudent to give them so little attention.” Terrorists are not supposed to receive asylum, but many have tried successfully. ATD will likely create another hole in our security for them to exploit, unless the Secretary explicitly states otherwise.