Graham Introduces Bill to Fix Asylum Loopholes
By Heather Ham-Warren | May 16, 2019
On Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) held a press conference to rollout legislation aimed at addressing asylum loopholes and stopping the humanitarian crisis at the border.
While specifics are slim, the legislation does include several substantial changes to the current immigration system. First, it would require migrants seeking asylum in the United States to apply at a consulate or embassy in either their home country or in Mexico. Additionally, it would override the Flores agreement by increasing the amount of time children with family members can remain in custody from 20 days to 100 days. Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman’s bill would amend the Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) to permit officials to deport unaccompanied alien minors to Central America, as is currently the case with migrant children from Canada and Mexico (contiguous countries). Lastly, it would increase funding for an additional 500 immigration judges.
The exploitation of asylum loopholes is occurring with increased frequence as individuals are presenting themselves at the border with meritless or frivolous claims. Additionally, there has been drastic increase of child abuses including kidnapping and even recycling of children, a practice which allows individuals to present themselves as family units and thus benefit from family-detention limitations.
FAIR has long advocated for the reforms Senator Graham highlighted in his press conference, but other portions of the senator’s camera time were worrisome. At one point he stated, “I am willing to put other immigration ideas on the table to marry up with this.” During the question and answer portion of the event Graham mentioned several times that his legislation was only meant to serve as a conversation starter between Republicans and Democrats— even indicating that a mass amnesty (such as his DREAM Act) would likely be tacked on to his bill before it makes its way out of the Judiciary Committee.
In his Thursday remarks on immigration policy, President Trump pledged to reform the asylum process and root out abuse, which he said “strains our public school systems, our hospitals, our local shelters, using funds that we should and that have to go to elderly veterans, at-risk youth, Americans in poverty and those in genuine need of protection.”
The White House has not released its full legislative proposal, but Senator Graham—who is considered to be a close ally of the president— appears to have already dismissed Trump’s efforts. He claimed that “the White House’s plan is not designed to become law.” The White House appears to disagree with that notion and has been meeting with lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to shore up support.