The United States has an immigration problem. It has for decades, but now, it is growing worse by the day. The immigration courts are already trying to chip away at the 850,000 cases it has backlogged. There is an increase of credible fear claims at the border, meaning more people are flocking to America for asylum. The system cannot keep up, and it is migrant families and children that are paying the price. Now, Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced a bill that may help change all that.
The bill would make three substantial changes to the system. First, it would require foreign asylum seekers to apply to their consulate or embassy in their home country. This would help clear up the flow of migrants at the southern border. Second, it would allow children of foreigners to remain in the country for 100 days instead of 20. Finally, it would make it easier to deport minors without parents to Central America. The bill would also allow for 500 new immigration judges to help with the current backlog.
Some question if these changes will prevent emigrants from obtaining asylum in the United States. A new application process could complicate matters and dissuade asylum petitions. Still, others point out that the government will begin to handle its backlog of immigration cases, addressing a pressing, unmet issue.
“There are some really great components of this bill,” says James Hacking of Hacking Law Practice, LLC. “The fact there will be hundreds of more judges to move the cases through the courts more quickly is very encouraging. However, there are other components that are risky, such as keeping children in custody for a much longer time.”
Proponents of the law say keeping children in custody will actually help them, not hurt them. Although the centers for families and children is one of the most divisive political points in the country right now, some say keeping them longer is the only way to give them their due process. It is nearly impossible to have a full proceeding, obtain counsel, and get the necessary documentation from other countries in just three weeks. Extending that time may allow those children to get the fair treatment they deserve.
Others argue extending the custody time frame may not be in the children’s best interest. With stringent asylum petition requirements and more opportunities to deport unaccompanied minors, this change could unnecessarily extend a child’s time in crowded or poor holding conditions. Likewise, this additional time allowance may be a moot point if the minor cannot meet certain immigration standards.
Graham understands the controversy his bill may bring. However, in a push to change the way the country is dealing with migrants, or not dealing with them, he has stated he is happy to amend his bill to come to a resolution.
If these changes go into effect, the United States may finally start tackling its immigration case influx. While there is no perfect solution to handling issues like asylum and minor deportation, this plan could help expedite the immigration petition process. So although this bill may curb certain immigration procedural rights, some petitioners may welcome how these changes individualize their case and expedite their timelines. Overall, the bill’s significance to asylum seekers will depend on a case-by-case basis.