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July 25, 2019

Inhofe, Blackburn, Cramer, Rounds, Cassidy, Hern Introduce Asylum Abuse Reduction Act

Today, as the border crisis becomes increasingly concerning, Sen. Inhofe, along with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) introduced the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act. Rep. Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

This legislation will complement the President’s work to build a wall by addressing immigration loopholes to strengthen the integrity of the asylum process to ensure that it is only used by individuals who are genuinely seeking asylum. The United States experienced a 234 percent increase in asylum applications from 2014 to 2016, generating a serious backlog in our immigration courts.

“The asylum process should be for those who truly need it—not individuals using it after they are caught illegally crossing the border in an attempt to avoid deportation,” Inhofe said. “That’s why I’m reintroducing my Asylum Abuse Reduction Act. By reforming our asylum process, we can minimize false asylum claims, ease the backlog on our immigration courts and end ‘catch and release’—all while improving the process for those who truly need it. The border is in a serious crisis. President Trump gets that—he really does—and he is changing it. I am proud of the administration’s continued work to build the wall, increase support for ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents and eliminate sanctuary cities. With the addition of the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act, we can make real reform to our broken immigration system and secure the southern border.”

“The crisis at our border requires immediate action,” said Blackburn. “We can’t let traffickers and drug cartels continue to take advantage of our laws. This legislation targets asylum fraud to eliminate loopholes and bring real reforms to our nation’s immigration policy.”

“The asylum system is broken: it contains loopholes which divert resources from those who need them and creates challenges for law enforcement, which result in the current crisis at our southern border,” Cramer said. “This legislation builds on the work President Trump is doing to secure the border by eliminating loopholes and preventing further abuse. It also provides families with alternatives to detention as they await their asylum hearings.”

“Our immigration system is flawed and too many individuals are manipulating our generous asylum laws to illegally enter the U.S.,” said Rounds. “Asylum is meant to provide a safe haven for individuals fleeing persecution. It should be a last resort for those sincerely fearing for their lives – not be used as a free ticket into the United States for those who would simply prefer to live in our country. Our bill would strengthen our asylum laws so those who truly do need to come to us for safety can do so. Our immigration system is in need of long-term reforms to strengthen border security and encourage migrants to pursue legal immigration, which I’ll continue to work toward. In the meantime, our legislation takes a step toward reducing the number of individuals who falsely claim asylum to illegally enter the country.”

“Our immigration and asylum laws are a magnet for illegal immigration. Our border is overwhelmed,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Until we change the laws, we can never catch up.”

“I’ve seen for myself the backlog at our Southern border,” said Hern. “Our border agents are over-worked, and the immigration courts are weighed down with too many cases to possibly keep up with the new arrivals. The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act will provide relief and get us back on the path to order. I’m proud to be the sponsor of this bill and introduce it to the House today, I look forward to earning the support of my colleagues for this legislation and hope to see it pass the House soon.”

A one-pager about the bill can be found here and full text can be found here.

Bill Summary

Require migrants declare asylum at our embassies/consulates in Mexico or Canada before entering the United States.

  • Currently, migrants who cross the border illegally and declare asylum are released pending credible fear screenings and other legal procedures, but rarely show up for proceedings – never completing the asylum process.
  • The dramatic increase in asylum claims, as urged by smugglers, creates a huge strain on our resources, a backlog in the immigration process and most migrants don’t show up for their court date.
  • The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act requires individuals seeking asylum to have their preliminary credible fear screening at an embassy or consulate outside the United States prior to being considered for admittance for asylum purposes.

Create a criminal bench warrant for immigrants that have failed to appear for immigration court.

  • Currently, when illegal immigrants fail to show up for court, their information is not entered into police databases.
  • With this bill, if migrants don’t appear for court, they will be given a bench warrant so if they are stopped for an unrelated offense, like speeding, there will be a warrant for them in the system for violating immigration law.

Create a pilot program for alternatives to detention.  

  • The Flores decision says that we can’t detain illegal immigrants with children or families for more than 20 days. Currently, that usually means they are released pending trial – and then fail to appear.
  • This bill establishes a pilot program that would allow families to be released to a qualified organization, contracted with the federal government, to ensure migrants comply with immigration proceedings. 

Codification of Trump administration’s Third Country Asylum Rule.

  • Prohibits migrants from claiming asylum unless he or she has applied for protection from persecution or torture in at least one country outside the alien’s country of citizenship and was denied asylum by that country.
  • Exception for migrants that are victims of human trafficking.

Background:

Previous administrations have operated under a policy of “catch and release,” where many illegal immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are given citations for appearing in court, but then released into the United States. Recent data from data from Department of Justice makes it clear – 44% of immigrants accused of illegal border crossings simply never appear for their court proceedings.

The asylum process has also been abused in the past, with immigrants entering the country after declaring asylum, but never completing the process by attending court dates or necessary interviews with immigration officials—thereby never receiving proper documentation. We’ve also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of individuals claiming asylum 

Questions about the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act:

Would this bill deter families and individuals from seeking asylum?

No. Rather, this will reduce the backlog on our immigration courts and make it easier for families legitimately seeking asylum to have their cases heard.

What about building the wall or other border security initiatives?

Sen. Inhofe is a strong advocate of building the wall, but additional legal changes need to be made to eliminate illegal immigration. The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act would work in collaboration with other border security initiatives. Inhofe’s bill, the WALL Act, is the only legislation that fully pays for the construction of a border wall by closing loopholes that allow unauthorized immigrants to receive federal tax and welfare benefits.

Will this legislation do anything to address family detention?

Yes. Earlier this year, families were separated because existing case law prevents children from being detained with their parents while the parents are undergoing criminal proceedings for illegal border crossing. This bill creates an alternative to detention program that would allow families to stay together while ensuring they still comply with all immigration proceedings.



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