Bush administration announces end of 'catch-and-release' for illegals

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Speaking for the Whitehouse, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated in a committee meeting for the U.S. House of Representatives that "essentially 100 percent" of non-Mexican illegal immigrants who are detained are currently being deported. The policy of "catch-and-release," whereby people illegally in the United States would be caught, but then not detained in jails and deported, has been heavily derided this year as immigration reform in the U.S. has become a hot political issue.

Mexican nationals, under the NAFTA treaty and other agreements between the U.S. and Mexico, are generally detained long enough to return them directly to Mexico. However, the Whitehouse now claims that every nationality other than Mexicans are held when caught, and then immediately processed for deportation if determined to be in the U.S. illegally.

Chertoff credited the recent funding increases dedicated to the effort, as well as additional manpower.

Some criticism remains, especially regarding what to do about the estimated 13 million illegal Mexicans currently in the U.S. Chertoff responded that the size of the project and the expense are prohibitive, suggesting that some form of guest worker program is the only viable alternative currently under consideration. He cited estimates from the Whitehouse claiming that deporting only 10% of Mexican illegal aliens would cost $10 billion USD per year and take at least a decade.

Additionally, Chertoff pointed out that several months ago he had estimated it would take four years to reach the current goal of securing the borders. He has now revised the estimate to gaining "operational control" of the border approximately two years from now.

Employers who give work to illegal immigrants are also being targeted and aggressively prosecuted. Businesses that hire illegal immigrants are being charged with a broad array of violations and serious fines in an attempt to discourage the availability of black market labour.

The debate over immigration reform in the U.S. has become increasingly heated this year. The two houses of Congress have proposed vastly different bills and are now engaged in a bitter fight over compromises. Many individual states and jurisdictions have begun passing their own legislation as the national debate drags on.

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