House Republicans have responded to the President’s request for $2.7 billion in funding with their own proposal. According to the Arizona Daily Independent, the recommendations are as follows:
•Deploy the National Guard to the Southern border to assist Border Patrol in the humanitarian care and needs of the unaccompanied minors. This will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their primary mission.
•Prohibit the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) from denying or restricting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) activities on federal land under their respective jurisdictions.
•Require a DHS strategy and implementation plan to gain operational control of the Southwest border.
•Establish independent third party commission to develop border security metrics as a means to accurately gauge progress on border security.
•Establish border security in Central American countries and Mexico.
•Establish repatriation centers in originating countries in order to facilitate the return of family units and unaccompanied minors.
•Deploy aggressive messaging campaigns in originating countries and the U.S. to dispel immigration myths, clarify that individuals will be deported on arrival and advise on the dangers and legal penalties of traveling through Mexico to enter the United States illegally.
•Mandate the detention of all Family Units apprehended at the border with the ultimate goal of processing family units 5-7 days. Congress must continue stringent oversight to ensure this mandate is being met.
•Amend the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 so all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexicans and Canadians for the purpose of removals. This would require unaccompanied children who do not wish to be voluntarily returned to their home country to remain in HHS custody while they await an expedited immigration court hearing that must occur not more than 7 days after they are screened by child welfare officials.
•Deploy additional judge teams and temporary judges to expedite the hearing of asylum and credible fear claims. Congress must address the occurrences of fraud in our asylum system. Baseless claims crowd the immigration court system and delay processing for those with legitimate claims. The standard under current law that allows an alien to show a “credible fear of persecution” needs to be examined and addressed to ensure a fraud-free system moving forward. In addition, criminal aliens and criminal gang members should not receive asylum.
•Establish tough penalties for those engaged in human smuggling, including the smuggling of unaccompanied minors by strengthening penalties for human smugglers and those who assist them.
•Increase law enforcement operations domestically and in originating countries to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and encourage originating countries to pass strict laws against human smuggling.
At first glance, many of these are ideas that have been included in bipartisan bills introduced as part of comprehensive immigration reform efforts. Other new ideas like establishing centers in the originating countries to help people being returned and education programs to inform people about US immigration requirements don’t seem particularly controversial either.
But, of course, there are non-starters. For one, amending the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 to take away due process protections for Central American children arriving unaccompanied has already garnered strong opposition from Democrats and the President, who earlier suggested he might be okay with this, has backed off that idea.
The other new and very disturbing idea introduced by the GOP is the idea of doing away with the current rules on credible fear screenings at ports of entry. These screenings, part of the law since 1996, require immigration officers at ports of entry to interview people seeking asylum to see if they have at least a credible asylum claim. It looks like the GOP wants to move to the language in the recently introduced Cornyn-Cuellar bill. That bill would up the standard of proof in credible fear screenings to the same high level as required in civil litigation matters, something that would be very tough for many without lawyers and advance preparation who have shown up – often fleeing for their life – at a port of entry. I suspect this also will be considered out of the question by Democrats.
If this is the Republicans opening round in the negotiations, a deal might be had. But if these two changes to immigration law are likely deal breakers for Democrats and nothing will happen if the GOP is insistent that they be included.