Fact Check: Trump’s Misleading Claims About ‘Catch and Release’

President Donald Trump and his administration have spent weeks claiming that the Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. use an immigration policy called “catch and release” to infiltrate the country.

Trump has likened it to a loophole in the law that allows unlawful immigrants who are making America less safe to stay, rather than being subject to immediate deportation.

“Catch and release is ridiculous. If they touch our property, if they touch our country, essentially, you catch them and you release them into our country. That’s not acceptable to anybody. We need a change in the law,” Trump said Tuesday, when asked about the members of the migrant caravan waiting at the border crossing between Tijuana, Mexico and California to plead their cases for asylum after a grueling journey to the border.

But the president’s characterization of “catch and release” is misleading, and while his administration vilifies asylum seekers as gang members, their own data doesn’t seem to back them up.


There is no law or hard and fast policy called “catch and release,” as the president has claimed. The term originally became popular during the Bush administration to describe the practice of releasing immigrants from detention while they await immigration court proceedings, in part because there were not enough detention facilities to hold immigrants pending immigration court proceedings.

Immigration experts say that practice is no longer common. The White House has used the term to blast the protections afforded to children and families seeking asylum in the U.S. and complain that the government can’t detain asylum seekers indefinitely.

The White House said in an April release that the primarily Central American families and children “have been exploiting these weaknesses in our immigration system for years in order to enter and remain in the country,” and argued they dodge court dates and deportation orders.

By Jane C. Timm for NBC NEWS
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