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No, the Ryan Immigration Bill Would Not End Family Separation at the Border

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Instead, It Would Prolong Detention of Children in Poor Conditions,  End Decades Old Law That Protects Refugees Seeking Protection

NBC reports House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan is claiming his immigration bill includes a provision to end family separation. A leaked outline of the bill says the bill would “ensur[e] alien minors apprehended at the border along with their parents are not separated from their parent or legal guardian.”  

However, the leaked text of the 255 page bill contains no provision that would prohibit family separation. Under the proposal, Attorney General Sessions remains free to continue his zero tolerance policy in which the federal government prosecutes immigrants crossing the border and separates children from their parents in an attempt to deter families from seeking protection from violence or the opportunity to provide for their family.

The bill as proposed would do the following:

  • Require that children be detained for long periods of time.  

Section 5506 specifically states, “There exists no presumption that an alien child who is not an unaccompanied alien child should not be detained.” Detention of such children would be governed by the same statutory provisions used to detain adults under this section which allows for prolonged detention during removal proceedings.   

  • Obliterate legal requirements to detain children in safe and appropriate conditions.

Because section 5506 requires that detention of children be governed by the same statutory standards as adults, long-standing requirements to humanely detain children in safe and appropriate conditions are eliminated – in spite of horrific incidents involving children that spawned these requirements.

  • Close the door to protection for refugees before they even have a chance to explain.

Section 5501 would eliminate safety screenings for thousands of children who would then be expeditiously returned to countries they were escaping from.

Furthermore, section 4402 would raise the bar for initial asylum screenings, thereby decreasing the number of people allowed to fully explain their cases for asylum before an immigration judge.   

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said:  

It is troubling that Speaker Ryan believes that in ‘working hand-in-glove with the White House,’ he is putting forward  a bill that would end a policy created and staunchly supported by the White House.  Not only does this ‘hand-in-glove’ Ryan-Trump bill fail to do that, materials used to explain the bill to colleagues in the House of Representatives are wrong.  

David Leopold, partner at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: 

Speaker Ryan’s claim that the House GOP has penned a plan to end family separation is a bald-faced lie. In fact the draft floating around Capitol Hill does nothing of the sort. Instead it employs cleverly parsed legalese to strip refugee children of the judicial protections required by the long-standing Flores consent decree, subjecting them to expedited removal from the U.S. and back to the life threatening violence from which they’ve just escaped.

When read in the concert with Attorney General Sessions’ recent decision in Matter of A.B., stripping asylum protections from victims of domestic and gang violence, the GOP proposal is not about ending family separation. It’s about conspiring with the Trump administration to send refugees, particularly women and children fleeing horrendous violence, back to the hands of their murderous persecutors.