House Bill H.R. 5137 – Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act—The Biggest change in immigration law since 1996?

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives recently proposed a bill aimed at dealing with the crisis currently taking place on the Southwest Border. House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte introduced the bill and provided the following support for it:

“Since President Obama won’t take actions to quell this activity, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act stops many of the Administration’s policies that have caused this crisis, such as exploiting weak asylum standards to approve baseless claims and stringent environmental policies that prevent Border Patrol agents from doing their job of securing the border. Additionally, the bill reforms current law to make sure we get these unaccompanied minors home safely and quickly. We must swiftly take action to end this crisis-children’s lives are at stake, and so is the integrity of our immigration system.”

If anyone reads this bill, you can see that the scope of the bill is extremely broad, its effects are tremendous, and the change that it will make to our existing immigration laws will dwarf every action the President has ever taken regarding immigration.

This bill would add a significant ground of inadmissibility and deportability for aliens who the government reasonably believes are, or were, gang members, or engaged in gang activity. This charge does not require a criminal conviction, current gang membership, or that the immigrant have been a gang member in the U.S. If the government files this charge, the immigrant is not eligible for a bond, or for asylum or withholding of removal or for Temporary Protected Status or Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status. This ground would also apply retroactively. This change would allow the government to treat current and former gang members similar to how they treat terrorists in immigration proceedings.

This bill would greatly limit the power of immigration officers to parole immigrants into the U.S. who do not have green cards, visas or other documents to legally enter the U.S. Thereby greatly reducing the number of immigrants paroled into the U.S.

This bill would greatly limit the definition of children eligible for SIJ status, thereby greatly reducing the number of children eligible for this visa.

This bill would bar any government-provided attorneys for any alien in removal (deportation) proceedings under any circumstances. Recently AILA and other advocacy groups have been fighting for government-funded attorneys for the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) flooding into the U.S.

This bill redefines and greatly limits the definition of UAC, thereby reducing those eligible for the designation, and reducing the protections afforded those who are UACs.

This bill would also cut foreign aid to countries from which UACs are fleeing, unless and until those governments agree to take back the UACs from the United States.

Currently, undocumented immigrants who arrive at a U.S. border, or are caught shortly after illegally crossing the border are quickly removed to their home countries, usually without seeing an immigration judge. This process is called Expedited Removal. U.S. government policy has been to not use Expedited Removal against UAC. This bill would change that and allow for Expedited Removal of UACs.

This bill is a drastic and major change to the current immigration laws in the U.S. and will have long-reaching and long-lasting effects on tens of thousands of children and young people who have fled from Mexico and Central America over the last decade.

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