The American people are on edge, and rightfully so. The immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border has exploded into a cataclysmic battle royale on Capitol Hill. How did we get here? To be fair, it certainly did not happen overnight — America has practiced a willful disregard on immigration policy for decades. The government’s purposeful negligence spans over numerous administrations and has been under the stewardship of both parties.
To understand the outrage over Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy we first need to discuss the Clinton era “Flores Consent Act” which the White House is blaming for the current separation of migrant families from Central and South America.
Flores prohibits the federal government from holding minors more than 20 days, making it literally impossible to keep families together without being in violation. Fast forward to the Trump administration’s policy which treats any illegal border crossing as a criminal action. Similarly, when parents break the law here and go to jail, they are unfortunately separated from their children.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was one of the first lawmakers to answer the president’s call for a legislative solution. Cruz’s bill addresses the family separation issue on multiple fronts. It allows families to stay together during the processing portion barring certain circumstances with the parents, doubles the number of judges to address the backed-up case logs and perhaps most noteworthy, expedites asylum hearings to 14 days.
There are numerous bills floating around with different tweaks and solutions to family separation, introduced by the likes of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa) and even House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
The president originally asked that any fix of the family separation issue be included in a comprehensive immigration bill. However, Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ending the draconian practice after a week of media outrage.
Two pieces of legislation are set to be voted on Thursday barring any setbacks: A conservative bill authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R- Va.) and a so called “compromise” bill that is the product of a collaboration between Goodlatte, GOP leadership and House staffers.
The compromise bill seems to have the best chance of passing, which consists of creating a pathway to citizenship for the DREAMers, funding for border security, including $25 billion for walls and fencing, increased personnel and immigration judges and an end to both the “diversity lottery” and “chain migration.”
One glaring loophole in both of the bills is that close to half of undocumented immigrants in America are admitted via the visa program, rarely followed-up on the back end to ensure they actually leave. Between years of ignoring the problem while simultaneously issuing millions of visas annually, we are in a self-digging hole.
Until the U.S. implements an automated biometric entry-exit system on visa’s, the federal government is only addressing half the problem. As Metallica would say, it’s “sad but true.”
While reform is badly needed, both congressional bills require Democratic support. Immigration has been a political piñata for long enough. No more politics, no more finger pointing. Now is time for solutions. Solutions for our broken immigration system, solutions to our border, and solutions for those families.
If you are a hard-core politico, then get your popcorn ready, this week surely won’t disappoint and will likely end in some significant political fireworks.
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