President Trump signed a memo Friday evening ordering the end of a policy colloquially known as "catch and release," in which some illegal immigrants are not detained while they await asylum or deportation hearings, a process that can take years.
The U.S. only has space to detain 40,000 immigrants at a time, and the order directs the Pentagon to determine whether there are military buildings that could be used for this purpose. It asks Defense Secretary James Mattis to compile "a detailed list of all existing facilities, including military facilities, that could be used, modified, or repurposed to detain aliens for violations of immigration law at or near the borders of the United States."
Immigrants released under this program were those not deemed to be dangerous or a flight risk, including children and people seeking asylum. The White House described the change as a necessary security measure. "The safety and security of the American people is the president's highest priority," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "and he will keep his promise to protect our country and to ensure that our laws are respected."