Blackburn Joins Inhofe, Colleagues to Introduce Asylum Abuse Reduction Act

July 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) joined Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to introduce legislation to restore integrity to and strengthen the asylum process by eliminating loopholes.

“The crisis at our border requires immediate action,” said Senator Blackburn. “We can’t let traffickers and drug cartels continue to take advantage of our laws. This legislation targets asylum fraud to eliminate loopholes and bring real reforms to our nation’s immigration policy.”

“The asylum process should be for those who truly need it—not individuals using it after they are caught illegally crossing the border in an attempt to avoid deportation,” Senator Inhofe said. “That’s why I’m reintroducing my Asylum Abuse Reduction Act. 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. The border is in a serious crisis. President Trump gets that—he really does—and he is changing it. I am proud of the administration’s continued work to build the wall, increase support for ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents and eliminate sanctuary cities. With the addition of the Asylum Abuse Reduction Act, we can make real reform to our broken immigration system and secure the southern border.”

“The asylum system is broken: it contains loopholes which divert resources from those who need them and creates challenges for law enforcement, which result in the current crisis at our southern border,” Senator Cramer said. “This legislation builds on the work President Trump is doing to secure the border by eliminating loopholes and preventing further abuse. It also provides families with alternatives to detention as they await their asylum hearings.”

“Our immigration system is flawed and too many individuals are manipulating our generous asylum laws to illegally enter the U.S.,” said Senator Rounds. “Asylum is meant to provide a safe haven for individuals fleeing persecution. It should be a last resort for those sincerely fearing for their lives – not be used as a free ticket into the United States for those who would simply prefer to live in our country. Our bill would strengthen our asylum laws so those who truly do need to come to us for safety can do so. Our immigration system is in need of long-term reforms to strengthen border security and encourage migrants to pursue legal immigration, which I’ll continue to work toward. In the meantime, our legislation takes a step toward reducing the number of individuals who falsely claim asylum to illegally enter the country.” 

“Our immigration and asylum laws are a magnet for illegal immigration. Our border is overwhelmed,” said Senator Cassidy. “Until we change the laws, we can never catch up.”

Rep. Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives on July 25.

The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act would: 
Require migrants 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.
•    The Asylum Abuse Reduction Act requires individuals seeking asylum to have their preliminary credible fear screening at an embassy or consulate outside the United States prior to being considered for admittance for asylum purposes.

Create 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. 
•    With this bill, 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. 

Create a pilot program for alternatives to detention.  
•    The Flores decision 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. 
•    This bill establishes a pilot program that would allow families to be released to a qualified organization, contracted with the federal government, to ensure migrants comply with immigration proceedings. 

Codification of Trump administration’s Third Country Asylum Rule.
•    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.
•    Exception for migrants that are victims of human trafficking. 
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. Recent data from data from Department of Justice makes it clear – 44% 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.