On the heels of heightened awareness of illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border, US Sen. Ted Cruz introduced legislation that would keep families together while also providing for enhanced border security.
Due to a decades-old court settlement which bars the US government from jailing illegal immigrant children, families crossing the border illegally and claiming to seek asylum status were often released into the country while their cases were pursued. That policy came to be known as “catch and release” and encouraged those seeking to enter the country illegally to bring children with them and to falsely claim for asylum in order to exploit the loophole in immigration law.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who worked with the Department of Homeland Security to begin holding parents and children separately in order to curtail further illegal immigration, noted that the practice had encouraged further illegal immigration involving children, which often leads to their harm, rape, or even death during dangerous, illegal border crossings.
“Word got out about this loophole and the results were predictable,” Sessions told the Wall Street Journal.
The situation has led to a political standoff between the Trump administration, which has asked Congress for a legislative solution to end the practice and clear the bloated asylum backlog, and Democrats who have sought to exploit the tragedy for political leverage to fight against border security funding and the construction of Trump’s proposed border wall.
In light of the difficult situation, US Sen. Ted Cruz has introduced the Protect Kids and Parents Act, legislation which provides for families to remain together and receive an expedited review of their request for asylum status.
“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” said Cruz. “This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.”
“The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of ‘catch and release.’ Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis,” he added.
Cruz’s legislation, as filed, would do the following:
- Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
- Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.
- Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.
- Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.
Cruz should be commended for crafting a fix that protects families—even those of illegal immigrants—while also protecting the interests of American citizens and the rule of law.