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Rounds, Inhofe Introduce Asylum Abuse Reduction Act

WASHINGTON – As the border crisis becomes increasingly concerning, Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), along with Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) introduced the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act. Rep. Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. This legislation will address immigration loopholes to strengthen the integrity of the asylum process to make certain that it is only used by individuals who are genuinely seeking asylum.

“The immigration crisis at our southern border is obvious,” Rounds said. “Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our asylum laws and close the loopholes incentivizing migrants to illegally enter our country. Asylum is meant for individuals who are truly fleeing harm or persecution in their home country. Our legislation will reduce false claims of asylum, so that those individuals who truly need help can receive it. I’ll continue working with my colleagues to secure our border and reform our broken immigration system.”

“We have to find real solutions to this Biden Border Crisis,” Inhofe said. “That’s why I’m reintroducing my Asylum Abuse Reduction Act—I want to reinstate the successful policies of the Trump administration that Biden reversed. By reforming our asylum process, we can minimize false asylum claims, ease the backlog on our immigration courts and end ‘catch and release’—all while improving the process for those who truly need it.”

Full text of the bill can be found here.

Bill Summary

Requires migrants to declare asylum at our embassies/consulates in Mexico or Canada before entering the United States.

  • Currently, migrants who cross the border illegally and declare asylum are released pending credible fear screenings and other legal procedures, but rarely show up for proceedings – never completing the asylum process.
  • The dramatic increase in asylum claims, as urged by smugglers, creates a huge strain on our resources, a backlog in the immigration process and most migrants don’t show up for their court date.
  • SOLUTION: The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act requires individuals seeking asylum to have their preliminary credible fear screening with an immigration officer by telephone or in person at an embassy or consulate outside the United States prior to being considered for admittance for asylum purposes.

Creates a criminal bench warrant for immigrants that have failed to appear for immigration court.

  • Currently, when illegal immigrants fail to show up for court, their information is not entered into police databases.
  • SOLUTION: With the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act, if migrants don’t appear for court, they will be given a bench warrant so if they are stopped for an unrelated offense, like speeding, there will be a warrant for them in the system for violating immigration law.

Codifies the Trump Administration’s Third Country Asylum Rule.

  • SOLUTION: Prohibits migrants from claiming asylum unless he or she has applied for protection from persecution or torture in at least one country outside the alien’s country of citizenship and was denied asylum by that country.
  • HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXCEPTION: for migrants that are victims of human trafficking.

Establishes Fix to Flores Settlement Agreement:

  • The 1997 Flores agreement says that we can’t detain illegal immigrants with children or families for more than 20 days. Currently, that usually means they are released pending trial – and then fail to appear.
  • SOLUTION: The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act aims to prevent family separation by ensuring the Flores agreement does not apply to children who are travelling in family units so that children are not separated from their parent(s) or guardian(s) while in detention.

Previous administrations have operated under a policy of “catch and release,” where many illegal immigrants caught crossing the border illegally are given citations for appearing in court, but then released into the United States. Data from the Department of Justice makes it clear–49 percent of immigrants accused of illegal border crossings simply never appear for their court proceedings. 

The asylum process has also been abused in the past, with immigrants entering the country after declaring asylum, but never completing the process by attending court dates or necessary interviews with immigration officials—thereby never receiving proper documentation. We’ve also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of individuals claiming asylum     

Would this bill deter families and individuals from seeking asylum?

No. Rather, this will reduce the backlog on our immigration courts and make it easier for families legitimately seeking asylum to have their cases heard.  

What about building the wall or other border security initiatives?

The Members are strong advocates of building the wall, but additional legal changes need to be made to eliminate illegal immigration. The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act would work in collaboration with other border security initiatives.

Will this legislation do anything to prevent family separation?

Yes. In the past, families were separated because existing case law prevents children from being detained with their parents while the parents are undergoing criminal proceedings for illegal border crossing. The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act would prevent children travelling in family units from being separated.