On Thursday, April 22, 2021, a bipartisan cross-section of the Senate and House members announced legislation to address immigration, specifically unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border.
The key sponsors (S 1358-Border Solutions Act) include Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and House members Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Congressman Tony Gonzales (R-TX). Senator Cornyn said while the bill provided focus on unaccompanied minors, he foresaw the possibility that additional immigration measures could be included. Cornyn said that “It is the beginning of our work on immigration issues. But this is, we think, the most urgent need, so that’s why we’re starting with this bill.”
The legislation does not deal with the “DREAMERS” legislation that has passed the House, but sponsors of this new legislation said they supported a permanent solution for DREAMERS/Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
There is a bipartisan group of senators talking about immigration issues now. One of the group leaders, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), has said there are ongoing discussions, and part of that revolves around the DREAMERS legislation passed by the House and an immigrant workers visa bill passed by the House at the same time. Cornyn and Sinema were set to have discussions with the Durbin group. Regarding the DREAMERS/DACA issue, Senator Sinema said, “I’m no longer comfortable using them to leverage other immigration provisions.” The President expressed that same sentiment during his address to Congress.
The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act would:
- Implements new protections for unaccompanied migrant children released to sponsors in the United States, including regular follow-up and absolute bars on placement with persons convicted of certain crimes, such as sex offenders and child abusers.
- Increases staffing to better handle irregular migration influx events, including 150 new Immigration Judge teams, 300 asylum officers, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff, ICE litigation teams, CBP officers, and Border Patrol processing coordinators.
- Establishes at least 4 regional processing centers in high-traffic Border Patrol sectors to properly handle the influx of migrants along the southwest border and improve interagency coordination.
- Creates pilot programs to facilitate fairer and more efficient credible fear determinations and asylum decisions while ensuring fairness in proceedings through provisions to protect access to counsel, language translation services, and legal orientations.
- Expands legal orientation programming and translation services and protects access to counsel for migrants.
- Improves DHS coordination with NGOs and local governments to prevent the release of migrants into small communities that are poorly equipped to handle the influx of a large number of migrants.
- Improves DHS, DOJ, and HHS reporting to Congress to support future legislative efforts in areas in which bipartisan agreement does not yet exist.
Senator Sinema, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Government Operations and Border Management, said the bill is a first step as they look to work with others and the Biden Administration.