Republican Lawmakers Introduce a Real Solution for the Biden Border Crisis
FAIR Take | March 2021
Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Thune (R-SD), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act in the Senate last week that poses legislative solutions to address the border crisis and abused asylum system, while Representative Kevin Hern (R-OK) introduced its companion in the House. The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act is just one of a handful of bills introduced this year that targets the true causes of the crisis on the border.
While President Biden is actively trying to brush the border crisis under the rug and blame the Trump administration, temperatures, and a variety of conditions in the Northern Triangle for the spike in apprehension numbers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is anticipating numbers to reach a 20-year high. Already, in just the first five months of fiscal year 2021, southwest border apprehensions exceeded 397,000. In the same time frame last fiscal year, that number was less than 161,000.
The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act, however, makes critical reforms to the immigration system to simultaneously reduce incentives to enter the United States illegally and ensure the U.S. government is able to devote its resources towards cases that are more likely to be meritorious. Currently, just 12 out of every 100 aliens who claim asylum are ultimately found eligible for protection by an immigration judge.
First, the bill requires aliens to declare their intent to apply for asylum at a U.S. embassy or consulate office in Mexico or Canada before arriving in the United States and codifies the regulation, commonly known as the “Third-Country Transit Rule,” that restricts asylum eligibility from aliens who did not apply for asylum in any country they transited through en route to the United States. (The bill includes appropriate exceptions for aliens subject to human trafficking and for the countries in which asylum, or similar protection, is unavailable.) These changes accomplish important goals: reducing incentives to for aliens to illegally cross the border, ensuring that asylum is more efficiently granted to aliens who truly need it, and creating a more even distribution of the asylum burden among countries that are also parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Second, the bill closes loopholes to address dangerous “catch and release” policies. The bill makes two important changes to accomplish this end: it creates criminal penalties for aliens who fail to appear for their immigration hearings before an immigration judge and repeals old litigation-created restrictions that prohibit DHS from detaining family units for longer than 20 days. Given current resource constraints, it takes approximately 40-45 days for aliens who are apprehended at or near the border to receive a hearing in front of an immigration judge. This two-decade-old settlement agreement, known as the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, has resulted in the release of countless aliens who are in the expedited removal process. In many cases, their release into the interior of the United States ultimately results in their disappearance, despite having already been in DHS custody.
No plan to address the border crisis can be successful if fails to address the mass-exploited loopholes that have served as magnets to illegally enter the United States. “By reforming our asylum process, we can minimize false asylum claims, ease the backlog on our immigration courts and end ‘catch and release’—all while improving the process for those who truly need it,” Sen. Inhofe commented in a press release. FAIR supports this bill and encourages all members of Congress to support immigration reform measures that discourage fraud in the asylum system.