Senator Lindsey Graham's Bill Harms Immigrant Children
In May 2019, Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the Secure and Protect Act of 2019. The bill, however, does anything but secure and protect. Rather, it guts the asylum system and undermines the safety and well-being of vulnerable children and families who are seeking protection in the United States. While the bill was ironically supposed to move through the Senate Judiciary Committee on World Refugee Day, it will now be before the committee on Thursday August 1, just before Senators go back to their districts.
The bill attacks immigrant children and families on all fronts. It allows for the indefinite detention of families and requires expedited court proceedings for their cases. It eliminates evidence-informed, child welfare standards for the conditions of family detention. It makes unaccompanied children’s stay in government custody the default, rather than release to family. It allows Border Patrol officers with no training in child welfare to send children back if they think the child doesn’t qualify for legal protections. It puts an extraordinary burden on asylum seekers to prove that they qualify for asylum. It requires children to prove their eligibility in an adversarial proceeding against a trained government attorney (likely without counsel). It restricts access to other forms of protection for asylum seekers, like trafficking visas, family visas, and special immigrant juvenile status for children. It places multiple bans on asylum, such as requirements to enter between ports of entry or eliminating asylum at the border for Central Americans. It limits the number of refugees that can be resettled from Central America. And it increases the number of government attorneys arguing against asylum-seekers’ claims, despite the fact that many asylum-seekers do not have counsel to represent them.
These are only some of the damaging effects of the Graham bill. Congress should focus its time and energy on legislation that would address the root causes of migration, prioritize the safety and well-being of children and families, and ensure fair proceedings (due process) while they are here.
Members of Congress will soon leave Washington D.C. to go back to their districts. Now is the time to let them know that America must maintain its place as a refuge for those in need and provide basic protections for vulnerable children who reach our borders. You can do this by calling district offices and speaking up at town hall meetings to demand that your Senators and Representatives prioritize bills that protect the safety and well-being of children and families.