Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a four-pronged bill Wednesday that he said was “designed to stop the humanitarian crisis” at the United States-Mexico border.
The plan, which focuses exclusively on immigration from Central America, would mandate that asylum claims be applied for at American consulates in the migrants’ home countries, Graham said, announcing his proposal at a news conference inside the U.S. Capitol.
“No more asylum claims at the U.S. border,” he said.
Graham said his proposal would also change immigration laws to extend the period of time a family with a minor can be detained at the border to 100 days. Currently, families with a minor can be held for only 20 days — a short period that Graham said creates an incentive for undocumented migrants to try to enter the U.S.
“Under our laws, if you come as a family unit and you come with a minor child, we can only hold the family for 20 days because we don’t want to separate the family,” he said. “ We release the entire family after 20 days. So word is out on the street in Central America that if you bring a minor child with you, your chance of being deported is almost zero, and your hearing date is years away, and we release you inside the country.”
Graham added that he wanted to change the laws so that unaccompanied minors could be sent back to their home countries “in a safe and secure way.”
Graham is also proposing hiring 500 new immigration judges to deal with an asylum application backlog that he said currently comprised 900,000 applications.
“If we do these four things, then the incentive created by our laws will cease to exist and this humanitarian crisis will begin to repair itself,” he said.
Graham’s announcement comes amid efforts by top White House advisers to rally Republicans around a unified message on immigration ahead of the 2020 election. The new push comes as President Donald Trump, who built his 2016 candidacy on immigration and a promise to build a wall along the southern border, has struggled to obtain concrete results on his immigration policies in the first two-plus years of his presidency.
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