South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced an immigration bill addressing numerous underlying issues that law enforcement officials say are driving the U.S.-Mexico border crisis.
Speaking at a Wednesday media conference, Graham outlined the four main points of his proposal, addressing the “broken and outdated” immigration laws that attract illegal immigration from Central America.
Overall, the bill calls for doubling the number of immigration judges, allowing those in Immigration and Customs Enforcement Custody to be held for as long as 100 days, more readily deporting unaccompanied minors and requiring those seeking asylum to do so in their home countries.
“What I’m trying to do is explain how to stop the flow from Central America, to regain control of our border, and stop a humanitarian crisis that I think is just going to get worse over time,” Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during the news conference.
First, the South Carolina Republican wants to add 500 new immigration judges, bringing relief to a system that is dramatically backlogged with around 900,000 applicants.
Graham’s proposed bill would also increase the holding period for those being detained. Currently, migrant children, whether they arrive at the border alone or with family, cannot be detained for longer than 20 days.
Leaders within the Department of Homeland Security have long urged Congress to extend this timeline, claiming the current time allotment forces them to release illegal immigrants into the U.S. while their cases are being processed.
An extension to 100 days, Graham argues, would alleviate this issue by allowing a more reasonable period for processing.
The bill would also dramatically change the process for asylum seekers.
Thousands of Central Americans are reaching the U.S. border and applying for asylum, clogging U.S. immigration courts and essentially allowing many applicants to enter the country unabated as they wait for their cases to be adjudicated.
Graham’s bill would mandate that applicants make their claims at American consulates in their home countries.
He added that a facility in Mexico could be established as well.
The proposal would also treat unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries the same as those from Canada and Mexico, making it much easier to deport them in a timely manner.
“To those who want to give more money to Central America: It won’t stop the problem. They’re going to keep coming to the United States because life is better here than it is there, and no amount of money is going to stop people from coming,” Graham said.
“If you do these four things, then the incentives that’s created by our laws will cease to exist,” he went on. “This humanitarian disaster will begin to repair itself.”
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