Border Security and Immigration Reform Act

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Republican leadership, moderate Republicans leading the discharge petition effort, and Freedom Caucus members developed the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 (H.R. 6136) as part of the negotiations on an immigration bill that would address the situation of Dreamers. It was introduced on June 19, 2018 by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and original co-sponsors Representatives Jeff Denham (R-California), Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida), and Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

The wide-ranging, almost 300-page bill would remove protections for migrant children and allow them to be incarcerated for longer periods of time, reduce legal immigration, add border measures (including funding of almost $25 billion), increase interior immigration enforcement, make it more difficult for asylum seekers and provide some Dreamers and certain children of immigrants with work visas a path to citizenship.

Fails to Adequately Address Family Separation. By removing protections for children crossing the border, the bill would permit the indefinite detention of children and families and weaken standards of care for children in these facilities. The bill would cause a different and equally problematic situation for children. As the American Academy of Pediatricians states, holding children for prolonged periods and possibly indefinitely in immigration jails could cause “negative physical and emotional symptoms from detention, including anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Leaves Out a Significant Number of Dreamers. The bill would create a six-year “contingent nonimmigrant” status that would allow Dreamers with DACA or who were eligible for DACA to be protected from deportation, work legally in the U.S., travel outside the country and, if they meet certain requirements under a points-based system, earn the ability to become a lawful permanent resident. According to an analysis by the CATO Institute only about 18% of Dreamers would benefit from this bill. Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers would be left out. Each DACA recipient contributes an estimated $109,000 to the economy each year. If all DACA recipients were deported, America’s annual GDP would fall by nearly $42 billion. (See our detailed explanation about the bill provisions regarding Dreamers here.)

Harms the Economy by Significantly Cutting Legal Immigration. It would cut legal immigration to provide visas to Dreamers already living and working in the U.S. The bill would eliminate the ability of citizens to sponsor adult children who are married and would eliminate the diversity visa program. It would also eliminate the ability of citizens to sponsor their brothers and sisters to immigrate to America, but would reallocate those visas to employment based visas. The bill would not allow most of those already in line for the eliminated family visas to stay in line – almost 3 million people some who have been waiting for almost two decades. Particularly when jobs outnumber workers, reducing legal immigration to the U.S. would have a negative impact on economic growth and would likely make it harder for a number of industries to find employees.

Increases Expensive Border Measures. The bill provides advanced appropriations of $25 billion to fund a border wall, technology, and other infrastructure. It requires the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents. The number of Border Patrol agents nearly doubled between FY 2002 and FY 2017 (increasing from 10,045 to 19,437), but the average number of apprehensions per month for each Border Patrol agent is currently less than two. It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to construct and deploy the necessary physical barriers and technology to prevent all unlawful entries. (These provisions are almost identical to the border measures in the Securing America’s Future Act and a detailed description of those provisions can be found here.)

Makes Federal Immigration Detainers Mandatory. This bill would make it mandatory for jurisdictions to honor ICE immigration detainers and provides for the subject of a detainer to be transferred into DHS custody. It provides immunity to jurisdictions who honor detainers, deeming them to be “acting under color of Federal authority” and substitutes the federal government as the defendant in any lawsuit challenging a jurisdiction’s compliance with a detainer. Under the bill, victims of crimes and/or their family members could sue a jurisdiction where the perpetrator was the subject of a detainer that was not honored by that jurisdiction. These provisions encourage actions that some federal courts have questioned as unconstitutional. Also, moving to a system of mandatory detainers and increasing the role of state and local law enforcement in carrying out federal immigration enforcement policies could undermine trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.

Diminishes Humanitarian Protections. The bill would restrict eligibility and make it more difficult for those seeking asylum in the U.S. to apply. Also, it would lessen protections for unaccompanied minor children such as subjecting more of them to expedited immigration processing. It would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to try to determine the immigration status of an individual in whose care an unaccompanied child would be placed and require DHS to pursue deportation proceedings if the individual is undocumented. (These provisions addressing asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors are similar to those in the Security America’s Future Act and a detailed description of those provisions can be found here.)

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