Michael Chertoff

The U.S. “catch-and-release” immigration policy has ended, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today.

Law enforcement authorities are holding nearly all non-Mexican illegal immigrants caught in the U.S. until they can be deported to their home countries, Chertoff declared.

The new “catch and detain” policy, he noted, does not apply to Mexicans, who are to be sent back immediately after being stopped by Border Patrol agents.

“Although we’re not ready to declare victory – we’ve got a lot more work to do – it is encouraging and it is something that ought to inspire us to continue to push forward,” Chertoff told reporters.

Chertoff said a crackdown this summer bolstered by National Guard troops has deterred thousands from illegally crossing the Mexican border.

The Border Patrol provided statistics showing a drop of about 20,000 illegals caught crossing the border compared to last year.

Responding to today’s announcement, immigration expert David Mulhausen of the Heritage Foundation said, if true, it is an important advancement in detering illegal immigration.

“However, something still needs to be done about the catching and releasing of Mexican illegal immigrants ? the majority of all illegal immigrants,” he said in an e-mail to National Review editor Kathryn Jean Lopez. “Hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents will do little to deter illegal immigration without providing sanctions.”

The federal government imposes virtually no sanctions, such as fines or detention, on apprehended illegal immigrants, he pointed out.

Mulhausen said that “because there is little or no cost to being apprehended by the Border Patrol, the research on illegal immigration suggests that illegal immigrants will make as many trips as necessary to cross the border successfully.”

Last October, Chertoff told a Senate hearing the Department of Homeland security had a goal to “completely eliminate the ‘catch and release’ enforcement problem, and return every single illegal entrant, no exceptions.”

“It should be possible to achieve significant and measurable progress to this end in less than a year,” he said at the time.

Chertoff told the Senate in October “a non-Mexican illegal immigrant caught trying to enter the United States across the southwest border has an 80 percent chance of being released immediately because we lack the holding facilities.”

But the agency, through a “comprehensive approach, was moving to end this ‘catch and release’ style of border enforcement by reengineering our detention and removal process,” he said.

Nevertheless, Chertoff has been pessimistic toward calls to deport illegals who have been living and working in the country for some time.

In a November 2005 interview, defending President Bush’s so-called “guest worker” program for illegal aliens, Chertoff said it’s just not practical to deport the millions of foreigners in the country illegally.

“The cost of identifying all of those people and sending them back would be stupendous. It would be billions and billions of dollars,” Chertoff told Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel program “Hannity & Colmes.”

“One of the reasons I think that we’ve been focusing on the idea of a temporary worker program as part of a larger strategy for border security is because it would be a way to siphon off people who really want to do nothing more than work here, put them into a regulated program – we would know who they are – we would then be able to send them back at the end of a period of three years or six years. They would have made some money, they could take it back home, and then we could focus our other resources on the people that don’t want to do it the right way, and we could get those people sent out.”

As WorldNetDaily reported today, the White House plans tomorrow to make a show of support for Rep. Mike Pence’s proposed immigration compromise, which has been criticized by some conservatives as another form of amnesty.

Washington sources told WND the Bush administration will send Chertoff to the Texas border for a press conference, along with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas; and Pence, R-Ind.

The White House intends to make a push to get some form of immigration reform passed by the Senate and House so President Bush can sign the legislation before the November elections, the sources tell WND.

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