- The immigration deal that President Donald Trump has endorsed actually overhauls the US asylum system, and could see unaccompanied migrant children deported from the US the moment they arrive in the country.
- Senate Republicans on Monday released the text of a bill that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would bring to the floor for a vote on Thursday.
- The bill would force migrant children to apply for asylum in their home countries – and would immediately deport any unaccompanied migrant children who arrived at the US-Mexico border without authorization.
- Immigration experts and advocates said the bill reeked of influence from Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser and immigration hardliner.
The immigration deal that President Donald Trump hailed as a “common-sense compromise” actually imposes severe immigration restrictions, and could see scores of migrant children deported from the US without the chance to ask for asylum, according to experts and immigration advocates.
In an address from the White House on Saturday, Trump offered Democrats a deal that would exchange the $US5.7 billion he has demanded in border-wall funding with three more years of protections for so-called “Dreamers” and 300,000 other immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Congressional Democrats immediately dismissed the offer, arguing that Trump himself was responsible for jeopardizing the status of both classes of immigrants.
He terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded young unauthorised immigrants from deportation, and rescinded TPS protections for hundreds of thousands of TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
But a lesser-discussed angle of Trump’s deal was a proposed overhaul of the US asylum system, which would require that Central American children apply for US asylum in their home countries, and included provisions that would effectively ban Central American children from seeking asylum if they arrive at the US border unaccompanied.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, told INSIDER Trump pitched the deal as a “compromise” that combined measures Democrats wanted with the enforcement changed the president seeks.
“Instead what we got was essentially Stephen Miller’s dream: a bill that massively restricts asylum for Central American children, limits asylum for everyone else, and increases detention and provides no permanent status for those with DACA and TPS.”
Miller is Trump’s senior adviser, and the best-known immigration hardliner remaining in the White House. Critics have credited him for tanking a February 2018 deal between Trump and Democrats on $US25 billion in border-wall funding, which Miller reportedly disliked because it didn’t include enough cuts to legal immigration.
Senate Republicans released the text of the proposed deal legislation Monday evening, explaining that the asylum provisions were meant to “address the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied alien children” by requiring them to apply for asylum in their home countries rather than at the US-Mexico border, as they do currently.
The change, according to the bill, “reduces the incentive for such persons to make the dangerous journey to the United States southern border to request asylum.”
Republicans added in a statement that in order for “the new procedure to achieve the desired humanitarian result,” the bill needed to also “ensure the proper return of those who circumvent the process by coming to the United States without authorization.”
A ‘wish list of anti-immigrant provisions’
Though much of the nation’s attention has focused on the record numbers of migrant families crossing the US-Mexico border,more than 50,000 unaccompanied migrant children were arrested in fiscal year 2018, and more than 10,000 have already been arrested in early 2019, according to Customs and Border Protection data.
Under Trump and Senate Republicans’ proposal, nearly all unaccompanied children who arrive at the US border seeking asylum would be immediately deported back to their home countries, unless they qualified for certain lesser-known humanitarian protections like the Convention Against Torture.
The American Civil Liberties Union was among the many immigration advocacy groups that seized on the bill’s text, calling it a “sham ‘compromise'” that would “weaken the asylum system.”
“In addition to providing $US5.7 billion for a border wall and record funding to jail an unprecedented 52,000 immigrants per day, it includes Stephen Miller’s wish list of anti-immigrant provisions,” the ACLU’s deputy political director, Lorella Praeli, told INSIDER in a statement.
If the goal was to actually reopen the government, the bill contained an alarming number of “poison pills” that were certain to tank a deal with Democrats – particularly its provision to add a cap on asylum applications, allowing no more than 50,000 Central American children to apply for asylum each year and no more than 15,000 of those applications to be granted.
In context, tens of thousands of Central American children apply for asylum each year, including those who arrive unaccompanied and those who come as part of families.
Such a cap would upend the current asylum system and likely present challenges for the children fleeing violence or danger in their home countries, Reichlin-Melnick said.
“Even if you are at risk of being murdered immediately, the law provides that you would have to wait until the following year in order to ask for protection,” Reichlin-Melnick said. “The entire principle of asylum is that it’s only eligible for those who are unsafe in their countries and flee to the United States. This requires you to stay in your country, or stay in Central America, a location that’s fairly unstable, throughout the entirety of the asylum process.”
Though Congressional Democrats appear unlikely to back the bill, and spent much of the weekend bashing it as a non-starter, Republicans appeared ready to plow ahead with the bill regardless.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that the bill was “the only thing on the table,” and that he’d bring it to a vote on Thursday.
“The President has made a comprehensive and bipartisan offer that would accomplish everything Democrats have said needs to be accomplished right now,” he said. “It’s a strong proposal.”
- Read more:
- Trump offered Democrats a limited immigration ‘compromise’ to end the shutdown. Democrats say it’s a ‘hostage taking.’
- ‘I don’t know who’s telling the president this is a good idea’: Former ICE director says Trump’s wall makes ‘so little sense’
- THE OTHER BORDER ‘CRISIS’: While America is fixated on Mexico and the wall, thousands of migrants are fleeing for Canada in a dramatically different scene
- 376 migrants, including 179 kids, used 7 tunnels to get under the US border fence in Arizona