'Catch and Release' Defies Common Sense


Various members of Congress have strongly criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies, particularly at our southern border, insisting that less than 25 percent of what I call PHIs (persons here illegally) who are released follow through on their promise to appear for a hearing at a later date.

The only surprise about that statistic is: Why would anyone expect otherwise?

With rare exceptions, adults and older children who enter the United States without authorization understand that what they’re doing is illegal. They don’t waltz across the border nonchalantly; they’re often guided in the dark of night through rough terrain by smugglers commonly known as “coyotes.”

Certainly, they don’t think that’s the process for doing things on the up and up.

Accordingly, if PHIs are consciously breaking the law, what makes anyone think that they’d suddenly develop a strong appreciation for it and comply with Border Patrol’s directives to reappear for a hearing? That’s almost as absurd as not understanding why there’s been a dramatic surge in illegal border crossings since Joe Biden became president.

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There are two types of PHIs: 1) those who enter the United States illegally to begin with, and 2) those who enter legally but become illegal once they overstay their allotted time.

The ones in the latter category sometimes have no idea they’re doing anything wrong. In my book “Stop Calling Them ‘Immigrants,'” I point to examples of persons who think that a four-year window during which they can visit the United States for 90 days is the same thing as permission to visit for four years.

Others who enter on student visas sincerely believe that if they drop out of school, they are still here legally while they search for another school, or for a job.

The border jumpers, though, know exactly what they’re doing. They are far less respectful of rules and regulations, and they’ve been committing transnational trespass in greater frequency since Biden became president.

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There’s not much nuance to them; it’s very cut-and-dried: The United States turned away from a president who imposed draconian measures at times in hope of eliminating illegal entry and stay and instead elected one who is no more intimidating than a frail, elderly substitute teacher monitoring a class of rambunctious high school toughs.

What a chilling effect Trump’s election in 2016 must have had on the psyches of those in the business of smuggling weapons, drugs and humans across our borders, and what an unbelievable feeling of euphoria they must have experienced when Biden was declared the winner in 2020. It gave them a new lease on their criminal lives.

Biden’s move to replace the legally and factually accurate term “illegal alien” with “undocumented noncitizen” speaks volumes about his lackadaisical approach to illegal entry and stay as compared to his immediate predecessor.

“Undocumented” implies a formality that has yet to be completed, such as being issued a hotel room key card in order to access the gym, or a student ID card to get a 20 percent discount at the college bookstore. The difference is that hotel guests and college students are entitled to such amenities, whereas PHIs have no right to be here.

Many pretend to be offended by the term “illegal alien” because, they claim: 1) there’s no such thing as an “illegal” person, and 2) “alien” is an insulting word (never mind that it was part of the American lexicon for more than a century before Star Trek and Star Wars were ever created).

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That’s exactly why PHI – person here illegally – works just fine. It refers not to a person being illegal, but to an act, and doesn’t mention the word alien at all. Show me a person who objects to using PHI, and I’ll show you someone who’s bent on labeling all foreign-born persons as “immigrants” in order to blur the lines to the point that border integrity is altogether forgotten.

In what universe does one expect illegal entry and stay to subside when any attempts to curb it rely on the honor system?

Surely, the ancient saying that there is “no honor among thieves” can be extended to apply to trespassers and their trafficking travel agents too.

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Constantinos E. (“Dino”) Scaros, JD, Ph.D., is a presidential historian, educator, attorney, newspaper editor and columnist, and political analyst. He is also the author of several books covering many contemporary issues, most recently "How to Talk Politics Without Arguing," "Trumped-Up Charges!" and "Stop Calling Them 'Immigrants.'" Follow him on his Facebook page: Listen to Dino.