Republicans and Democrats are finally working together to tackle the crisis at the southern border – where unprecedented numbers of migrants have overwhelmed officials and the facilities designed to hold them.
The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, introduced this week, demands immediate action to speed the asylum process, protect unaccompanied minors, and secure the border.
“By processing them and sending them to a place where they can have more room and have the benefit of all the various US government officials and non-government organizations to help walk them through the process, we think that’s a better system for them,” says Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a sponsor.
The proposal calls for the construction of four additional processing centers that will help free up border patrol agents currently stuck processing migrant paperwork.
“With the Border Patrol estimating that this situation will only get worse, we must address this in a meaningful way that is fair to migrants seeking asylum, takes the pressure off of our border communities, and allows our Border Patrol agents to focus on their primary mission of securing the border,” continues Cornyn.
The bill includes language to improve the treatment of unaccompanied minors, offering new protections for children that are released to American sponsors.
According to the latest reports, there are currently more than 20,500 children living in HHS facilities and an additional 2,700 living in CPB housing. Caring for them costs more than $16 million per day.
“[This bill ensures] the federal government takes meaningful steps to support our border communities, secure the border, and treat all migrants and unaccompanied children fairly and humanely,” says Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), another sponsor. “I’ve seen firsthand how Arizona, and specifically small communities along the border, pay the price for the federal government’s failure to fix our broken immigration system.”
Additional provisions include:
- Establishes a prioritized list of migrant court cases
- Expands translation services for counseling and legal purposes
- Adds hundreds of staff to assist Border Patrol agents
- Enhances cooperation with local governments
- Reduces the backlog of immigration cases by adding 150 teams of judges
A beefed up presence at the southern border will also help thwart drug cartels and human traffickers, said the bill’s sponsors.
“The current influx of migrants has stretched our law enforcement agents and border communities to a breaking point,” says Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), who introduced a companion bill in the House with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
“To restore order, Congress must enact commonsense measures that relieve the bottlenecks in our immigration system and allow our DHS agents to focus on their national security responsibilities. We must take steps towards creating an immigration system that allows people to safely and legally come to the United States.”
The bill was well-received by migrant advocates, though it is unclear how successful it will be in Congress.