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Press Release Published: Feb 15, 2024

Grothman Opens Hearing on Consequences of Catch and Release at the Border

WASHINGTON—Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) delivered opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing titled “The Consequences of Catch and Release at the Border.” In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Grothman highlighted how the Biden Administration isn’t detaining and deporting a significant fraction of illegal border crossers. He continued by emphasizing the national security risk that catch and release policies present to our country by giving opportunities to cartel criminals, gang members, and members and affiliates of foreign terrorist organizations.

Below are Subcommittee Chairman Grothman’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Since President Biden has taken office through the end of 2023, there were over 6.2 million encounters of illegal aliens at the southwest border. 

And, in the first few months of Fiscal Year 2024, the number of illegal aliens encountered at the southwest border remains historically high and has already surpassed one million encounters.

Make no mistake, the Biden Administration isn’t detaining and deporting even a significant fraction of these illegal border crossers.

In December 2023, according to DHS data, Border Patrol encountered 249,785 individuals on the southwest border who illegally crossed in between ports of entry.

The Administration released 191,141 of those individuals on their own recognizance with nothing but a Notice to Appear at some future date in immigration court.

That’s a 76.5 percent release rate in the month of December for the illegal aliens that were caught.

Since January of 2021, the Administration has released more than 3 million illegal aliens into the United States who illegally crossed in between ports of entry or who were paroled through illegal categorical parole programs.

Those numbers don’t include the 1.8 million illegal aliens who evaded apprehension entirely and weren’t arrested by overwhelmed Border Patrol agents.

Rather than detain illegal aliens who have no lawful basis to enter and remain in the United States, the Biden Administration releases the majority of them into the country, or invites them through illegal parole programs, incentivizing more and more to come to the United States.

After their release, illegal aliens are free to travel where they please while they wait for their day in immigration court, assuming they even show up.

Those immigration courts are backlogged with over 3 million pending cases.

Most illegal aliens released by the Biden Administration will not get their final immigration court hearing for years.

Another way to show the lack of commitment to keeping troublesome immigrants out of America is what the Biden Administration does with migrants who commit new crimes after they get here.

The Biden Administration issued policy memos tying the hands of our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and attorneys, restricting when they can enforce the law against illegal aliens.

Secretary Mayorkas issued a memorandum for DHS restricting priorities for enforcement on September 30, 2021, emphasizing that criminal activity on its own is not enough to make an illegal alien a priority. 

Instead, only “current” threats are enforcement priorities, and only then because of “serious” criminal conduct. 

Visa overstays aren’t listed as priorities at all.

This is a departure from the norm under previous administrations and we will examine that today.

While millions of illegal aliens are released into the country, ICE attorneys were ordered by a policy memo implementing Secretary Mayorkas’s guidance to dismiss tens of thousands of cases in immigration court.

In Fiscal Year 2023, they dismissed 84,000 cases pursuant to that memo, on top of 91,938 cases dismissed or administratively closed in Fiscal Year 2022.

ICE only removed 142,580 illegal aliens in Fiscal Year 2023 despite a historic 3,201,144 new encounters of illegal aliens at our borders that year.

The Judiciary Committee has assessed that the Biden Administration is effectuating final orders of removal for only 1 out of every 26 illegal aliens it has released into the United States.

The message sent by the Biden Administration is clear.

Violations of our immigration laws, including illegally entering the country, will seldom be met with consequences. 

Certainly not, in most cases, detention and removal.

Even criminal history is no longer sufficient on its own to make a removable alien an enforcement priority for the Biden Administration.

The American people, States, and local communities are facing consequences of this massive catch and release campaign.

American citizens, lawful immigrants, and taxpayers are footing the bill for public expenditures on illegal aliens.

Costs of criminal justice, healthcare, education, housing, transportation, and other services.

According to documents provided to the Committee from FEMA, just in Fiscal Year 2023, FEMA reimbursed over $380 million dollars to local jurisdictions and non-governmental organizations around the country for expenses related to released illegal aliens.

I am especially concerned about the national security risk this chaotic situation presents to our country by giving opportunities to cartel criminals, gang members, and members and affiliates of foreign terrorist organizations.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Biden Administration must take action to enforce existing law, end the incentive to cross illegally, and restore order to the existing chaos.