AILA Quicktake #268: AILA Provides Update and Solutions on Border Situation

This week, both the Senate and the House passed emergency border spending bills that would be used primarily by CBP and ICE for the custody, transport, and care of migrants. AILA's Director of Government Relations Greg Chen provides an update on the situation and discusses the need for a more comprehensive set of solutions for better management at the border.

Video Transcript

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The humanitarian crisis at the southern border remains center stage
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with the president threatening, last week, to conduct raids on families
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but then suddenly pulling back.
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And this week, Congress is negotiating an emergency border spending bill
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with both House and Senate advancing competing versions.
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The bills would provide 4.5 billion dollars for the short-term detention, transport
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and care of asylum seekers and other migrants.
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In particular the Department of Health and Human Services is maxing out
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on housing for unaccompanied children
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and it could receive nearly 3 billion dollars of the total funds.
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Much of the budget shortfall results from the administration's
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extremely poor and chaotic management of the border situation,
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and it's unnecessary increase in the detention of families and asylum seekers.
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This shortfall should have been avoided.
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Especially since Congress voted a few months ago
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on an enormous border spending package
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that included more money for detention and border management.
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Now the government is poised to get even more money,
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and a large portion of those funds will go toward tent cities to house migrants.
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Of the two bills, the House version is the one that should be adopted.
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The House bill includes restrictions that prevent the government from misusing
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the additional funds for any purpose other than what's in the bill.
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In particular this will restrain DHS from diverting funds for interior enforcement.
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Last summer, we saw this happen with ICE going back to the coffers
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for more detention funds just months after Congress set detention funding levels.
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The Senate bill has no similar provisions restricting the use of these funds.
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in addition the House bill has better provisions to improve conditions in short-term custody,
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to increase access to legal counsel, and to increase the use of alternatives to detention.
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How can the government manage the border
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in a more orderly and also fair and humane way?
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First, more asylum officers need to be hired, trained, and sent to the border
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to conduct initial screenings for protection and to grant asylum.
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Second, the courts need aggressive reforms.
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The hiring of more judges won't necessarily help unless immigration judges are also
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given back the authority to manage their own caseloads, and to operate independently.
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This is something DOJ and EOIR have stripped them of in the past two years.
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Third, counsel should be guaranteed for all migrants.
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Legal counsel not only ensures asylum seekers get a fair shot,
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but greatly improves appearance rates at court
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and the overall efficiency of the process.
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Fourth, the government has to move away from what has now become
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a default practice of detaining asylum seekers.
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Detention is expensive and unnecessary.
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Especially when we know the latest court data
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shows that 99% of families represented by legal counsel
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appeared at every one of their court hearings.
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Reducing detention would also eliminate the need
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for what is now become a constant demand for more money
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from Congress that is just being shouldered by American taxpayers.
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These solutions will bring the border back under control,
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and ensure due process for migrants and asylum seekers.
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Now, these reforms should also be paired with aid programs
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for Central America to address the root causes of violence in those countries.
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In addition there should be efforts to improve the response to the situation
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that is done in conjunction with the governments of Mexico, El Salvador,
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Honduras, Guatemala, and other country governments in the region.
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Email your member of congress and tell them
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to keep the key protections in the House bill,
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including funding for legal counsel and restrictions on
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how the federal government can use these additional funds.
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Tell your member of congress to stay vigilant
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and monitor how the agencies implement the plans at the border.
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Finally, volunteer with or donate money to
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AILA and the American Immigration Council's Immigration Justice Campaign.
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You can go to immigrationjustice.us to do that right now. Thank you.
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Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19062736.