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Lawyers ask House Judiciary Committee to reject Republican asylum plan

If approved, the protections guaranteed by Congress will be removed.

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Through a recently published document, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Bar Association, organizations that bring together more than 17,000 members, as well as law professors, called to oppose the HR bill 2640.

Also called Border Protection and Asylum Reform 2023, the bill, which will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee next week, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California and is considered by defenders of migrants as a setback to the rights of this community.

Defense of the Current Law

Lawyers and law professors said in declarations published by Univision:

Beyond party lines, the American people support the protection of asylum seekers. There is a long-standing historical recognition based on American law that the United States has been and must be a leader in global humanitarian assistance.

The current asylum law, approved by Congress, indicates that if a person seeks asylum and has or demonstrates a fear of being deported because their life is in danger, it is an immigration judge who decides their future in the United States.

“The bill does not offer effective solutions that improve management on the southern border of the United States with Mexico. Rather, it attempts to control the now global phenomenon of refugee flows by blocking asylum seekers and destroying existing asylum law," they added.

A Complicated Scenario

Among the reforms proposed by the new bill, the following stand out:

  • Eligibility requirements and restrictions to request asylum are expanded
  • It demands the detention of migrant families and minors fleeing their countries and seeking asylum in the United States
  • It imposes the Safe Third Country rule and includes severe penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants, among other provisions
  • Authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent the entry into the United States of any alien if the official determines "it is necessary to achieve operational control" over the border
  • Expands foreign detention capabilities and speeds up deportation processes

“The Republican plan would bar asylum entirely and without exception to people who cross the border between ports of entry without exception, even if they are vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied children who are protected by the Law for the Protection of Victims of the Trafficking,” highlighted the lawyers.

Likewise, AILA highlighted that in addition to the changes proposed in the bill, what is sought is to hinder the federal government by demanding impractical measures and bureaucratic obstacles that will slow down the (asylum) process instead of making it more efficient.

“The bill would further restrict eligibility for asylum and limit the application. It means that there will simply not be meaningful access to asylum for those who are fleeing persecution and coming to the United States to save their lives,” stressed AILA.

Threat to Employment

The bill's authors have also recommended limiting employment authorization for asylum seekers "to just six months," forcing employment authorization holders to repeatedly apply for the document, which in many cases takes more than six months to process by USCIS.

“These requests to renew work authorization will compound the existing backlog currently facing USCIS which is severely delaying all forms of employment-based and family-based visas,” highlighted the document.

Recommendations

To directly address changing migration patterns at the southern border, AILA recommended:

  • Present strategies to manage migration while maintaining the protections established in the United States' humanitarian law of asylum
  • Modernize asylum processing at the border by using a whole-of-government approach to leverage multiple agencies and ease pressure on the southern border
  • The Biden Administration should create an Office for the Protection of Immigrants to coordinate work among immigration-related agencies
  • The Executive Branch should establish more uniform policies for sharing information between agencies that operate at the border, regions that are identifying and processing migrants, and those in the interior, such as immigration courts.
  • Increased investments are needed to improve infrastructure, including hiring more CBP personnel at ports of entry to inspect vehicles and pedestrians, as well as more USCIS asylum agents to interview people who fear persecution if they return to their home countries.
  • To accomplish this, Congress must make the necessary investments in the system by adequately funding USCIS, the immigration court system, and the Department of State, which review thousands of visa applications and other immigration cases annually

Univisión highlights that the chances that the plan presented by representative McClintock will be approved depends on the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy (California).

The opposition has 222 seats compared to the 213 Democrats, and 218 votes are required to be approved in plenary. In the Senate, for its part, it is unlikely that it will reach the chamber controlled by the Democrats, who have 48 seats plus three independents who vote with them, while the Republicans have 49 seats.

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