On April 6, 2018, President Trump published a memorandum directing the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, and Health and Human Services to update him regarding the steps being taken to end “catch and release” practices. Catch and release is an unofficial name of a protocol that has been followed by immigration enforcement agencies, ICE and CBP, under which people caught in unlawful immigration status are released while they wait for a hearing with an immigration judge. There is no single policy, regulation, or statute that simply allows apprehended foreign nationals to automatically be released when apprehended, but rather a collection of various and intersecting rules and policies by a number of agencies to provide relief to families, children, and asylum seekers while their immigration cases are being processed. The reports are due to the President in late May.
Meanwhile, in the wake of media reports on a migrant caravan headed to the Southern Border, and in anticipation of the springtime swell in border crossings, President Trump ordered the National Guard in four states deployed to the border. The Presidential Memorandum directs the National Guard to assist DHS in securing the border “to stop the flow of deadly drugs … gang members … and illegal aliens into this country.” The governors of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona all immediately acquiesced to the President’s order. The governor of California delayed, but ultimately allowed the state’s National Guard units to be deployed specifically to assist with “drugs and thugs” but not immigrants, a distinction that may prove impossible once in the field. In the previous National Guard deployments under Presidents Bush and Obama, Guard units acted as the Border Patrol’s “eyes and ears,” providing additional aircraft and manpower for surveillance and intelligence work. This deployment will likely involve the same type of assistance.