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Trump-McConnell Bill is Filled with Malevolent Poison Pills and has Very Little to Do with Effective Border Security

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With the longest government shutdown in history, President Trump continues to hold the American people, their government, and federal workers hostage for a border wall that experts agree harms border communities, the environment, wildlife, and is simply ineffective.  On Saturday, President Trump unveiled a new proposal in a feigned effort to end the shutdown calling it, “straightforward, fair, reasonable and common sense with lots of compromise.”  By Sunday night, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee filled in the details by releasing a proposed bill parroting Trump’s feigned effort and calling it, “a serious compromise.”  

Don’t be fooled.  This bill is filled with a series of malevolent provisions and has very little to do with effective border security.

Very Limited Temporary Protection for a Fraction of Current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Recipients

Despite claims that the bill would provide a three-year extension of status for current DACA and TPS holders whose programs were ended by the Trump administration, the proposed bill creates a completely new application process with new standards and requirements that would exclude many currently protected DACA and TPS holders. In addition, a new application and process would take months or longer to implement and even longer for processing of submitted applications. On top of that, applicants would be charged double or more than the fees they pay now. Furthermore, the bill would only allow a fraction of current TPS holders to apply: TPS holders from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti, but not those with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) from Liberia or those with TPS from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria.

Permanent Drastic Limitations on TPS, limiting Protection to Those With Lawful Status

The purpose of TPS is to to protect individuals from being sent back to disaster regions where they may be harmed or killed.  DHS may grant TPS to foreign nationals in the U.S. during time of disaster in their home country regardless of immigration status. This bill would permanently gut this provision, providing protection only for those with lawful status and exposing the rest to the very harm TPS is supposed to protect them from.    

Bans Asylum for the Most Vulnerable at the Border — Children — and Sends Them Back to Harm Without Meaningful Safeguards

On Saturday, President Trump spoke of the dangers children from Central America, particularly young girls, face on the perilous journey north to the U.S. Yet, the bill proposes to eliminate applications for asylum at the border by children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador with no exception. If those children are encountered at the border, under the bill, they would be sent back to their home countries without meaningful processes to protect them from the harm they may be fleeing.

Sham CAM Program — a Feigned Attempt to Replace the Current Asylum System for Central American Children

Within six months of Trump’s presidency, his administration ended the Central American Minors (CAM) program that enabled young people with strong claims for refugee status to apply in their home countries rather than take the dangerous journey to the border in search of protection. Furthermore, efforts by the Obama administration in 2016 to work with the UNHCR (the UN High Commission for Refugees) to set up refugee reception and processing centers in the region have dried up under Trump, with just 525 refugees resettled in the U.S. from all of Latin America in fiscal year 2018.

Instead of reviving and expanding the CAM program and growing refugee admissions from Central America under current statutory authorities available to the administration, the Trump-McConnell bill proposes a new capped asylum program that would likely take 240 days to implement, while children fleeing violence from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador would have no way to apply for asylum. Furthermore, the new program contains bureaucratic hurdles — an application that could only be considered after the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) goes through its own process and refers the case to DHS.  Finally, the bill proposes a filing fee.

Permanent Changes to Asylum

On top of ending critical protections for children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the bill makes permanent and nefarious changes to asylum law, such as a permanent bar to the U.S. if asylum is terminated, a new crime punishable by up to five years for making a false statement on an application, and a bar to asylum after one year in the U.S.  

Billions More for the Ineffective and Harmful Wall, Detention, Border Patrol and ICE Agents — All Without Accountability and Protections

For the malevolent poison pill provisions described above which Trump and Republicans in Congress claim is a “serious compromise,” their bill proposes $5.7 billion for the ineffective and harmful wall, a 20% increase in detention beds, and thousands more Border Patrol and ICE agents. All this despite a series of deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, a serious lack of accountability structures, the cruel and inhumane family separation policy, and an unchecked ICE operating without common sense priorities to detain and deport thousands more by using funds earmarked for FEMA, national security and public safety.  

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said:  “The Trump-McConnell bill is nothing but a cynical and feigned attempt by Trump and Republicans to convince the American people that they are worried about the shutdown and the government workers forced to work without pay. They may claim it is a serious compromise, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it is a bill filled with malevolent provisions intended to kill any real attempt at a compromise. We deserve better.”  

David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said:  “The Trump-McConnell bill is a mean spirited political ploy which does nothing to enhance border security and much to harm children, DACA and TPS holders, and others in need of protection. For more than a month the president has held the country hostage to a wall that the American people neither support nor need. The Trump-McConnell bill is nothing more than a malevolent attempt to codify Trump’s hate speech.”