Kirstjen Nielsen: Catch and release is like letting burglars stay in your home after they're caught

by Anna Giaritelli
| April 26, 2018 11:56 AM

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified Thursday that U.S. law enforcement officers can do more to prosecute home burglars who break into a family's home than immigrants who enter the country illegally because of "loopholes" in federal immigration law.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told Nielsen the first bill he ever filed during his first year in office 14 years ago dealt with catch and release policies. But he said the country is still seeing illegal immigrants who were apprehended at the southwest border be released into the interior and expected to show up for court dates two years down the road.

"Most Americans don't understand that. You can detain but can't deport," McCaul said.

"The way that I think of this is in terms of home security," Nielsen responded. "If you have an alarm in your home and you catch a burglar and you call the police, and the police come and, in fact, it is an illegal entry into your home, but the police then tell you that they have absolutely no ability to detain or remove those criminals and the criminals stay in your house, you would not tell me that is home security."

"That is what we face at the border: we stop people, we interdict them, but we do not have the authorities — given the loopholes in many cases — to detain and remove them. We are forced to release them back into the [sanctuary city] communities after they have committed crimes," she added.

About 500 cities and counties in the U.S. have deemed themselves "sanctuary" places, which means when an illegal immigrant is taken into police custody and federal immigration agents learn of the detainment, local law enforcement will not hold or confirm the individual in custody.

This prevents U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from being able to apprehend and process that person through removal proceedings following his or her pending criminal or civil charges. The result is people illegally in the country are released back into the community.

Advocates of sanctuary city policies say it protects the undocumented from being turned over to ICE. Opponents say the policy ironically allows the dangerous back into the immigrant communities local officials say they are trying to protect.

Nielsen said the hands of DHS will remain tied until Congress enhances current policy and sanctuary cities cooperate with federal officials.