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Immigration Bill Targets Families and Asylum-Seekers

The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 would further militarize the border, continue to restrict lawful immigration, and close avenues for asylum-seekers to seek protection, while failing to end the policies that drive the separation of families.

By UUSC on June 18, 2018

Last week, House Majority leadership unveiled draft legislation that supposedly provides a legislative “fix” for family separation and the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In reality, the draft legislation does not address the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all migrants and asylum seekers for unauthorized border crossing, which is a major source of the current wave of family separations. As experts have pointed out, this means that the family separation policy could easily continue under this bill.

“This bill is out of the same extortionist playbook as the other immigration proposals this White House has endorsed,” said Rachel Gore Freed, UUSC’s vice president and chief program officer. “The administration never had to end DACA, just as they never had to separate parents and kids. They start a fire and then refuse to put it out until the country accepts their extreme demands.

“These policies are designed to criminalize and deny entry to people of color,” added Freed. “It’s chilling that Jeff Sessions defends them by quoting the same passages from the Bible that were once used to defend slavery.”

Administration officials falsely claimed today that the family separation policy does not exist. In recent weeks, President Trump and others have incorrectly maintained that they are obliged to separate families by law. “The Ryan bill announced last week continues these same lies,” added Freed. “Trump and Sessions can stop criminally prosecuting asylum seekers and separating parents and children at any time. This proposed law is a non-solution to a problem of their own making.

“We have to harness this moment of awareness to ensure that it becomes awareness of the whole and of what people deserve. The goal remains in establishing a fair access to receive asylum and ending our destabilizing force in Central America so people can stay home. Period.”

The draft legislation, expected to come up for a vote in the House later this week, proposes $25 billion to fund a border wall, new restrictions on family-based migration, and an end to the Diversity Visa. These last two programs are crucial pathways for non-European immigrants to reach the United States and have played a major role in building a more diverse society in recent decades.

The bill would also eliminate certain protections for unaccompanied children and families and deter asylum-seekers. It erases protections under current U.S. law which ensure unaccompanied minors from countries not bordering the United States have a chance to present their case to an immigration judge. This change would expose more children to the danger of “expedited removal” to countries where they are at risk.

It would also undo the 1997 Flores settlement, which limits the amount of time children can be held in immigration detention. This change would enable the government to detain parents and children for the entirety of their immigration court proceedings, which can drag on for years. UUSC has spoken out against the practice of family detention under both the Obama and Trump administrations, and has documented the psychological trauma this practice inflicts on both parents and children.

“It is a cruel twist to end the appalling practice of separating families and lock them up instead,” continued Freed. “And even then, there’s nothing in this draft law to keep parents and kids together. The administration has no moral authority and continues to grasp for the legal right to restrict pathways for immigration and roll back protections for people fleeing danger. UUSC will continue to work against these and other anti-immigrant policy proposals.”

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