CBP Commissioner: We’d ‘Like To’ Keep Families Together at Border, Need Congressional Change

On Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan stated he’d like to keep families together in custody and called on Congress to ” end this catch and release practice where families have to be released within 20 days,” among other reforms.

McAleenan said, “[I]n 2015, a district court judge, interpreting a 20-year-old settlement between the INS and several plaintiffs determined that we could not detain children, even if they were accompanied by their parents, for more than 20 days. They can’t finish their proceedings with due process, in 20 days. So, they had — it essentially forced release. So, we don’t have that tool in our toolbox to keep them together.”

Later, McAleenan responded to a question on what action Congress should take by stating, “[F]rom the border security perspective, there are three main issues. It’s the double standard on kids. Kids from Mexico are repatriated swiftly, and it’s a very small percentage of unaccompanied children coming across. … Secondly, we need to end this catch and release practice where families have to be released within 20 days, so they’re not coming to the court hearings and we can’t finish that process. We’d like to keep them together in custody. And then third, the asylum gap, at the credible fear level, where…80% of people are being found, you might be able to prove a case for asylum. But then years later, when they see an immigration judge, that’s down to 20% results. So, that gap is creating an incentive to come illegally.”

McAleenan also stated that Congressional reforms would be more helpful than Attorney General Sessions changing the zero-tolerance policy.

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett