Graham’s bill is designed specifically to deal with loopholes he says are encouraging migrants from Central America to make the journey north and bring children with them. He pointed in particular to the 20-day limit for authorities to hold unaccompanied minors and families before having to release them into the US.
“The word is out on the street in Central America if you bring a minor child with you, your chance of being deported goes to almost zero, your hearing date is years away and we release you inside the country and that's the goal of coming,” he said.
The legislation would also allow unaccompanied minors to be returned to their country of origin, which Graham said would treat them the same as minors from Canada and Mexico. The time the families can be held together is also proposed to be extended from 20 days to 100 days to help allow claims to be filed without families being released into the US. The bill calls for an additional 500 immigration judges to deal with the backlog of asylum claims.
Graham stressed that until these loopholes are dealt with, any other security measures to deal with the crisis on the border are pointless.
“No matter how high the wall will be built, how many drones you have, no matter how many agents you have in the border, they’ll keep coming because they want to get caught,” he said.
Graham added that he is ready to work with Democrats on moving the bill in Congress, saying that he is “willing to put other immigration ideas on the table to marry up with this [bill].” Democrats, however, remain sceptical. Sen. Dick Durbin told ABC that “any immigration proposal that is harsh on children seeking asylum and does not address the root causes that are forcing them to flee their home countries will fail to stem the flow of migrants and is a nonstarter.”
Graham’s proposal comes after Customs and Border Protection said it apprehended or turned away more than 109,000 migrants attempting to cross the border in April, marking the second month in a row the number has topped 100,000. The situation on the country’s southern border escalated last fall, when a caravan which included thousands of people from Central American countries reached the US.