WASHINGTON – Today, only one Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat, the ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-California), showed up to the Committee meeting to consider legislation Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has introduced, the Secure and Protect Act of 2019.
The legislation is designed to close gaps in current law which have led to a massive influx of migrants from Northern Triangle countries – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – who are traveling to the United States, seeking Border Patrol agents, and turning themselves in.
“The asylum issue at our border is a new problem,” said Graham. “The asylum process is being abused. Next Thursday this Committee will do our job. I have delayed consideration of this bill for a month.”
Under Committee rules, business cannot be transacted unless there are two members present from the minority. The Democrats’ refusal to attend is designed to prevent the legislation from coming to a vote in committee. Chairman Graham pledged to confront the delay, bring the bill up again next week, and force a committee vote.
“I was informed that Senator Feinstein would be the only Democrat at today’s meeting,” continued Graham. “Despite this attempted delay, we will vote on this legislation next week.”
“I went to the southern border,” continued Graham. “We have had a hearing. We know what we need to do. Somebody is going to lead around here to change the laws and it will be this Committee. I am not looking for a political solution. I’m looking for a real solution. The  ‘Gang of Eight’ bill will not fix this problem.”
Graham noted that under current law, migrants traveling with children can only be detained for 20 days before they must be released, even if their asylum or other immigration claims are still pending. And with a massive backlog of asylum cases overloading the system, the majority of asylum petitions cannot be processed in time. In turn, they are released into the United States free and clear.
Highlights of the Graham bill:
- 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 Central America and Mexico.
- Modify U.S. law to allow families to be held together for longer than the 20 days currently allowed by the Flores decision.
- 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.