WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today unveiled the Secure and Protect Act of 2019 to strengthen border security.
“We have a perfect storm brewing at the border because of a series of broken and outdated laws related to asylum and children,” said Graham.
Graham noted that today, immigrants from the Northern Triangle countries – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – are traveling to the United States, seeking out Border Patrol agents, and turning themselves in.
“Word is out on the streets in Central America that if you bring a child with you – regardless of whether or not it is actually your child – America’s laws can be manipulated to allow you to stay in the United States,” said Graham.
“Under current law, immigrants traveling with children can only be detained for 20 days before they must be released,” continued Graham. “By turning themselves in to authorities, immigrants start the clock ticking on their detainment. And with a massive backlog of asylum cases overloading the system, the majority of asylum petitions cannot be processed in time. In turn, immigrants are released into the United States free and clear.”
Almost 100,000 people were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in April and the U.S. is on track for more than 1 million apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2019.
The Graham legislation closes the gaps in current law that have led to an escalating number of immigrants traveling to the border. Highlights of Graham’s legislation include:
- Asylum applications from residents of the Northern Triangle and contiguous countries would be filed at refugee processing centers – not in the United States. These centers would be established in the Northern Triangle and Mexico.
- Modify U.S. law to allow families to be held together up to 100 days in the United States while making their asylum claims – up from the current 20 day limit.
- 500 new immigration judges to reduce the backlog of cases.
- Unaccompanied minors (UAC) from Central America would be treated the same as minors from Canada and Mexico. This allows the United States to return all UAC to their country of origin after screening.
“We must change the underlying broken laws to stop what I think is an invasion at our southern border,” said Graham. “We need to ask -- who is in control here? Us or the smugglers? I hope Democrats will work with us to find a bipartisan solution. This isn’t a hoax or a manufactured crisis. It is real and serious. Today’s introduction begins the debate on a fix.
“Finally, it should go without saying but travel from Central America to the United States is a dangerous and treacherous journey, particularly for children,” concluded Graham. “This legislation will help protect children by ensuring asylum claims are filed from their home area, not after a thousand mile journey.”