Rep. Henry Cuellar, a prominent Democratic member of Congress whose district in Texas shares a border with Mexico, is urging President Joe Biden to promptly enact effective immigration enforcement measures, which should include the termination of the controversial “catch-and-release” policy.
Rep. Cuellar’s appeal comes in the wake of a significant influx of individuals unlawfully entering the United States during President Biden’s tenure, following the reversal of the stringent immigration and border enforcement policies implemented by former President Donald Trump on his inaugural day in office.
Cuellar expressed his belief that there is room for adjustment in the asylum law and the criteria for admitting individuals. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of enforcing Title 8. Cuellar further stated that the Biden administration should exert greater pressure on the Mexican government to intervene, considering the significant number of migrants traversing through Mexico.
“I think even if you don’t change the criteria for asylum, there’s enough under Title 8 that can get the job done, and that includes expedited removal. So, you got to have repercussions at the border, absolutely,” he said.
Cuellar, a moderate Democrat, has played a significant bipartisan role in searching for solutions to the continuous crisis that has impacted the region since 2021. He has frequently found himself in disagreement with certain actions taken by the Biden administration to address the crisis.
Within Congress, there is an ongoing debate regarding a supplemental funding request from the White House, which includes $14 billion allocated for processing, state aid, and enhanced expedited removal measures. However, Republicans have advocated for stricter asylum restrictions, increased deportations, and limitations on the release of migrants into the interior, as reported by Fox News.
Cuellar has also stressed the importance of exerting more pressure on Mexico to stop the flow of northward migration, which he believes is a crucial element missing from discussions about the border in general.
“We have to make sure that we put a constant pressure on Mexico, where Mexico slows down and holds people down there on the southern border. Then, naturally, there will be less people at our border,” he told Fox News, later adding that the pressure has to be “constant, constant, constant.”
It was emphasized that the practice of “catch and release” continues to act as a substantial motivation for numerous migrants. As per a recent report from Fox News, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has affirmed that more than 85% of migrants are being released into the United States. In December, the number of migrant encounters at the border exceeded 300,000, establishing a new record. Throughout fiscal year 2023, the total number of migrant encounters surpassed 2.4 million.
“If you have in one year millions of individuals that are encountered, and then you let hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them in, that becomes the pull factor. That catch and release, where people are released into the U.S., is the pull factor that I’m referring to,” Cuellar said.
If President Biden shows interest, the Texas Democrat has some valuable advice for the White House.
“If I was advising the president, I would look at the American public and say, ‘There’s an immigration crisis at the border, and we’ll get on it. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. We’re going to get it done. I’m on it.’” he said.
“And then make sure that you get rid of that pull factor, which is catch and release, letting people in, waiting for five, six years in the future before they go to an immigration judge,” he said, noting that, according to statistics, the vast majority will ultimately be rejected for asylum. “So, why are we allowing hundreds of thousands of them in when, at the end of the day, most of them are going to be rejected?”
He clarified that the presence of border walls in the Texas region is ineffective due to the fact that the river acts as the international boundary. Consequently, when migrants arrive at the wall, they have already entered the country and have the right to seek asylum. Furthermore, he stressed that simply increasing the number of Border Patrol agents will not solve the issue unless there are modifications made to the catch-and-release policies.
“You can add 1,000, 2,000 more, but if you don’t have the right policy, then you get more people helping them manage and processing people. That’s not what Border Patrol should be doing,” he said.