WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kyrsten Sinema and U.S. Representatives Henry Cuellar and Tony Gonzales have introduced The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, in response to the recent surge in migrants coming across the southern border. 

The authors of the bill say the legislation would improve both the Department of Homeland Security’s and the Department of Justice’s capacity to manage migration influxes and adjudicate asylum claims in a timely manner, protect unaccompanied migrant children, reduce impact on local communities, ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely, and ultimately deter those who do not have realistic asylum claims from placing themselves in danger by making the treacherous journey to our southern border.

“I have seen firsthand that law enforcement at our southern border has been overwhelmed by this historic surge of migrants, and border communities are straining to provide whatever assistance they can,” said Cornyn, R-Texas. “With the Border Patrol estimating that this situation will only get worse, we must address this in a meaningful way that is fair to migrants seeking asylum, takes the pressure off of our border communities, and allows our Border Patrol agents to focus on their primary mission of securing the border.”

Cornyn said the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act would:

  • Establish at least four regional processing centers in high-traffic Border Patrol sectors to properly handle the influx of migrants along the southwest border and improve interagency coordination.
  • Create pilot programs to facilitate fairer and more efficient credible fear determinations and asylum decisions, while ensuring fairness in proceedings through provisions to protect access to counsel, language translation services, and legal orientations.
  • Establish prioritized docketing of migrants’ immigration court cases during irregular migration influx events to deliver legal certainty for migrants., and disincentivize would-be migrants with weak asylum claims from making the treacherous journey to the southwest border.

“If CBP expects more apprehensions this year than at any point in the past two decades, we need to create common-sense solutions that will comprehensively address the current surge of irregular migration,” said Cuellar, D-Laredo.

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation enhances the asylum-seeking system so every individual is able to receive due process and mandates enhanced Congressional reporting and humanitarian care oversight. As the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, I am committed to supporting the brave men and women who protect our borders, the border communities who provide humanitarian relief, and the children and families determined to migrate to our country.”

Cuellar said the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act would:

  • Expand legal orientation programming and translation services, and protects access to counsel for migrants.
  • Implement new protections for unaccompanied migrant children released to sponsors in the United States, including regular follow-up and absolute bars on placement with persons convicted of certain crimes, such as sex offenders and child abusers.
  • Increase staffing to better handle irregular migration influx events, including 150 new Immigration Judge teams, 300 asylum officers, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff, ICE litigation teams, CBP officers, and Border Patrol processing coordinators. 
  • Improve DHS coordination with NGOs and local governments to prevent release of migrants into small communities that are poorly equipped to handle the influx of a large number of migrants.
  • Improve DHS, DOJ, and HHS reporting to Congress to support future legislative efforts in areas in which bipartisan agreement does not yet exist. 

“I’ve seen firsthand how Arizona, and specifically small communities along the border, pay the price for the federal government’s failure to fix our broken immigration system. As Chair of the Border Management Subcommittee, I am proud to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation ensuring the federal government takes meaningful steps to support our border communities, secure the border, and treat all migrants and unaccompanied children fairly and humanely,” said Sinema, D-Arizona.

Gonzales, R-San Antonio, said: “The current influx of migrants has stretched our law enforcement agents and border communities to a breaking point. To restore order, Congress must enact commonsense measures that relieve the bottlenecks in our immigration system and allow our DHS agents to focus on their national security responsibilities. We must take steps towards creating an immigration system that allows people to safely and legally come to the United States.”

The American Civil Liberties Union likes parts of the bill but not all of it.

Jonathan Blazer, director of border strategies for the ACLU, said: “Rather than building a fair and humane system for people fleeing danger and seeking protection, the bill instead works within the failed framework of deterrence and detention designed to short-circuit due process. While this bill includes some positive provisions, any proposal that further increases reliance on Customs and Border Protection in the asylum and detention process is a step in the wrong direction, given the agency’s record of abuse. We are also concerned about provisions that jeopardize due process for people seeking asylum, erect unnecessary barriers to releasing children to their families, and subject even more people to cruelty and danger in detention. Americans deserve thoughtful, humane solutions to address our broken immigration system that don’t inflict further harms on people fleeing danger.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio.

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