Several Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Thursday outlining proposals on how to address the migrant crisis at the southern border without changing current law.
The proposals focus on curtailing false asylum claims, which the chief of the U.S. Border Patrol has identified as one of the main drivers of the flood of migrants. The total apprehend crossing the border illegally surpassed 100,000 people in both March and April.
Leading the effort were border state congressmen, including Rep. Andy Biggs from Arizona, and Reps. Michael Cloud and Chip Roy from Texas. Biggs noted that given the Democratically controlled House’s unwillingness to address the crisis, it will fall on the executive branch, and particularly the Department of Homeland Security, to use the tools it has at-hand.
“President Trump has committed to using his legal authorities to address this national emergency, and my colleagues and I have identified potential actions his administration could take to fulfill the president’s vision,” Biggs said in a news release.
Cloud added: “Congress has failed in its responsibility to secure the border, but there are actions the President’s administration can take within the confines of the law to help resolve the current humanitarian crisis.”
“Our goal is to encourage DHS to support the president in doing our basic duty to secure the border,” said Roy. “Neither bureaucrats, nor Democrats, should get in the way.”
The letter, which 10 GOP members signed, identified specific proposals, including training Border Patrol agents to conduct “credible fear” interviews before aliens apprehended at the border are released to the United States to await the asylum hearings.
The lawmakers further called for the Trump administration to implement “Migrant Protection Protocols” which, in part, require immigrants from Central America to remain in Mexico while they await their asylum hearings.
Another proposal the congressmen offered is not granting employment authorization letters to asylum applicants, which allow them to work in the United States legally while they await court claims. The congressmen argued this is creating a “pull-factor for migrants.”
They also recommended raising asylum fees that “would discourage frivolous and fraudulent applications from being filed.”
Additionally, the Republicans honed in on overriding the Flores court decision through a change in federal regulation.
Under the 1997 Flores v. Reno settlement, federal authorities may only detain unaccompanied migrant children for 20 days, then they must be released to parents, adult relatives or sanctioned programs.
In 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, an Obama appointee, ruled that the Flores requirements apply to both unaccompanied minors and children apprehended with their parents. This update makes deporting families with children seeking asylum virtually impossible.
“The Flores decision has not helped, frankly,” former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Fox News last week. “That was a decision reached by a federal district court in Los Angeles in 2015. I was opposed to it then. I’m opposed to it now.”
When asked by Fox News host Laura Ingraham if there was one thing he could change that would help stem the flow of migrant families, McAleenan pointed to the Flores decision.
He said that 70 percent of the crossings recently have consisted of family units.
McAleenan — who served as a senior leader at CBP during the Obama administration — further related if the asylum claims can be adjudicated at the border without releasing the migrants into the U.S., the “flow would drop immediately.”
“It happened in 2014. We did the same thing then,” he said.
Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona — who signed the letter to McAleenan — highlighted the magnitude of the migrant crisis, which unlike previous surges has involved large numbers of minors, both accompanied and unaccompanied.
“It is estimated that one million illegal aliens will enter our country this year. In the Yuma sector alone, agents have apprehended 50,000 illegal aliens this year,” he said in a statement to The Western Journal.
— CBP Arizona (@CBPArizona) May 23, 2019
“The lack of support from House Democrats to secure our border continues to put thousands of children in life-threatening situations,” Gosar added. “I applaud President Trump’s efforts to take back control of our border and put a stop to the humanitarian crisis.”
The Trump administration won a recent and rare immigration-related victory at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, when the judges ruled in favor of its policy requiring some seeking asylum to remain in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated.
The panel of judges issued a stay on a lower court ruling blocking implementation of the policy, while litigation concerning it continues.
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio offered more recommendations of how to address the border crisis, first pointing to enforcing employment law already on the books.
“One thing that affects people coming in is the workplace hiring illegal immigrants, so I don’t see much of a crackdown on raiding private businesses,” he said.
Arpaio also suggested moving migrants throughout the country, so the border states do not have to bear the burden alone, and other states can feel some of the crisis’ impact.
“If they want to keep coming into our country and there’s an overflow, let everybody take part in receiving these illegal aliens,” he said.
Due to the Democrats’ refusal to address the migrant crisis, Trump has threatened last month to send migrants only to sanctuary cities.
However, McAleenan told Fox New on Thursday DHS currently has no plans to transport migrants beyond southern border facilities at this point.
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