Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham held a hearing Tuesday morning to again address the ongoing crisis at the southern border. Last month, he introduced legislation to stop the illegal flow of Central Americans to the United States through Mexico. Today, he urged Democrats and Republicans to work together to get it passed.
"The word is out in Central America, this is a Central America problem almost exclusively, that if you make it to America your chances of staying are pretty darn good if you ask for asylum or bring a minor child with you," Graham said. "The bottom line is, until we change our laws in two areas, this never stops and that's the purpose of this hearing."
"There has to be a breaking point. We've reached a breaking point at the border. I cannot imagine what it's like to go to work everyday where half the people are dedicating their time to family members, minors and all that goes with trying to deal with 600,000 people in your custody. Half of our resources are going away from housing people and trying to meet their basic healthcare needs," Graham continued. "This legislation is designed to deal with the crisis. If it got out in Central America you can no longer apply for asylum in the United States, they would stop coming. This would be a death blow to the smugglers."
Graham's legislation is 11-pages long and does the following:
The Graham legislation closes the gaps in current law that have led to an escalating number of immigrants traveling to the border.— Senate Judiciary (@senjudiciary) May 15, 2019
Highlights of Graham’s legislation include: pic.twitter.com/b4JKOn5Oz0
The bill will be marked up next week.
"Hopefully this body can rally around a couple of ideas," Graham said.
DHS Acting Director Kevin McAleenan, whose Department was heavily consulted when Graham's bill was crafted, testified about why the legislation is immediately necessary.
“The reality is that we have an unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis on our border. 144,000 crossings last month. We had one day with 5,800 and then you see large groups like the group of 1,000. That group was made up entirely of people from Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, 900 members of family units, 60 unaccompanied children and just a few single adults. That highlights the crisis right there," McAleenan said. "So these unprecedented numbers mean that there’s unprecedented pressure on the system. Health and Human Services is the department charged with caring for children that come across the border unaccompanied. Their resources have been overwhelmed.”
“It’s not just families and kids. We also have 35% of those crossing trying that are trying to evade capture. Hidden with that group are single adults that might have a criminal record, either here in the U.S. or in their home countries. 17,000 last year, we’re seeing more this year," he continued. "808 known gang members and more importantly, we have drug smugglers using the families and kids as a diversionary tactic to try to bring their poison across at the same time.”
Graham also praised President Trump's deal with Mexico to secure the border with Guatemala and to have Central American "asylum" seekers wait in Mexico for their hearings.
My legislation, the Secure and Protect Act, would fix loopholes in our asylum law, requiring Central American immigrants to apply for asylum within their country or Mexico, not the United States, and allow more time to process claims involving minor children.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 11, 2019
The President has taken strong action working with Mexico, but we also need to pass a more permanent, lasting fix.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 11, 2019
I hope Democrats and Republicans will listen to the Acting Secretary’s warnings and work together to end this disaster at our southern border.
In the meantime, the crisis continues.