WASHINGTON—Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) today introduced the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act to protect minors and asylum seekers, while reducing fraud at the southern border. The proposed legislation closes three significant loopholes in American immigration law and helps ensure the safety of migrant children.
“The humanitarian crisis at our southern border calls for immediate Congressional action. Loopholes in U.S. immigration laws are putting Americans and migrants at risk every day. These loopholes provide perverse incentives for adults to send children on the hazardous journey across the border, often in the company of dangerous people associated with drug cartels and human trafficking organizations.
“At the same time, our asylum system is not serving people fleeing persecution like it should because it’s weighed down with frivolous claims. Today, we have the opportunity to improve our policies on behalf of vulnerable children and families through a common-sense bill that increases integrity within our immigration system,” said Collins.
“The United States will always seek to protect those fleeing legitimate persecution. At the same time, our first priority must always be the protection and security of our own borders. Unfortunately, as the evidence shows, lapses in our immigration laws have been abused by many, hampering the resources reserved for refugees and undermining the effectiveness of asylum and border security programs. We must correct the longstanding loopholes that have encouraged illegal immigration and led to the crisis we face today. This bill is a critical step forward in those efforts,” said Johnson.
Background on Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act:
Keeping families together:
- This bill fixes the Flores settlement to ensure that children who are apprehended at the border with their parent(s) are not separated from their parent or legal guardian while in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody. The bill requires the DHS Secretary to keep children and parents together while their illegal entry cases are pending at the Department of Justice.
- The bill also prohibits DHS from releasing a child into the custody of any person other than a parent or legal guardian.
Protecting children who arrive without parents:
- The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 established inconsistent rules surrounding unaccompanied alien children who arrive at the border. Currently, children from countries that border the U.S., like Mexico, can be safely and immediately returned home if they consent to being returned, are not human trafficking victims and are not found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home country.
- Children from countries that do not border the U.S., however, must be placed in very lengthy removal proceedings in immigration court, during which they are usually released into the U.S., often to the very adults who attempted to have them smuggled into the country. The status quo often incentivizes adults to enlist coyotes to smuggle children across the border. The bill removes that incentive and requires that unaccompanied alien children be treated equally regardless of their home nations.
- The bill increases protections for victims of severe trafficking by ensuring that they receive a hearing with an immigration judge within 14 days of their arrival.
- The bill increases transparency and the safety of minors by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to provide DHS with biographical information about the family members or sponsors to whom each minor is released. This requirement does not currently exist statutorily and is necessary to guard minors from being released to criminals or abusers.
Increasing integrity in the asylum system:
- Currently, less than 20% of people who are granted credible fear are ultimately granted asylum, which is designed to protect men, women and children who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home nations. A dramatic increase in frivolous claims is making vulnerable people who actually qualify for asylum wait longer for that protection. This bill raises the credible fear standard so that fewer baseless asylum claims consume the taxpayer and other resources set aside to aid people at risk of persecution.
- The bill promotes transparency and fairness in the asylum system by requiring DHS to establish quality assurance procedures for credible fear interviews. It also requires DHS officials both to ask questions during the credible fear interview and to record the answers to those questions, in a uniform fashion.
- To reduce frivolous and fraudulent claims, the bill increases penalties for making false statements in asylum proceedings.
The bill is available here.