Saturday, April 20, 2024

Graham announces new immigration bill that advocates say would harm migrant children

A new bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would harm undocumented immigrant children by detaining them for longer periods and allowing immigration officials to send them back to life-threatening situations in their home countries.

Immigrant rights advocates argue the legislation wouldn’t even achieve its stated purpose: deterring undocumented families from coming to the U.S. Graham introduced the bill on yesterday, vowing that it would discourage families and unaccompanied children from crossing the border by ending legal “loopholes” that he said prevent them from being deported quickly.

“Word is out on the street in [Central American] countries that if a child can get here by themselves, then the chance of them staying in America is almost 100%,” Graham said at a press conference. Graham’s bill would increase the length of time children can be detained with their families from 20 to 100 days and would allow Border Patrol agents to quickly send unaccompanied children back to Central America under certain circumstances.

It would also direct the Justice Department to hire 500 more judges to help clear the immigration backlog and require people to apply for asylum from their home countries. Immigrant rights advocates say the legislation is based on falsehoods about how the system works.

They argue that the proposed policy changes would endanger immigrant children and do nothing to deter them and their parents from coming to the U.S. “The plan is shortsighted and enforcement first,” said Jennifer Podkul, the senior director for policy and advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense, an organization that advocates for and represents unaccompanied immigrant children. “It’s a very dangerous way to address the issue.”

At his press conference, Graham repeatedly referred to the “humanitarian crisis” at the border and touted how his proposed solution would “turn off the faucet” of immigrants heading to the U.S. He also said that while his four core proposals are essential to solving the immigration crisis, he was willing to work with Democrats to broaden the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Graham chairs, is set to hold a hearing and vote on the bill in the near future.