A group of Republican lawmakers recently introduced a slew of anti-immigration bills in the House of Representatives and Senate. The bills primarily target people’s rights to seek asylum in the United States, as well as re-up a laundry list of anti-immigration initiatives from the Trump administration.
These measures are the latest response to the arrival of asylum seekers and other migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of the media has falsely painted it as a “crisis” at the border. And despite evidence that the rise in arrivals began long before Biden took office, some congressional leaders are using it as an excuse to introduce damaging legislation.
In total, there were 11 new bills introduced between March 18 and March 24—seven from the Senate and five from the House. The lawmakers who introduced them include Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Lauren Boebert.
Five of the new bills target asylum specifically. If passed, these measures would:
- Require asylum officers to conduct credible fear interviews—often a retraumatizing experience for the asylum seekers—over the phone or at a U.S. embassy or consulate before the person could be considered for admittance into the United States.
- Require asylum seekers to have already applied for and been denied asylum in at least one country they traveled through on their way to the United States.
- Limit asylum eligibility to people who applied at a port of entry, despite it being legal to ask for asylum anywhere along the border.
- Allow children to be detained for up to 100 days, far beyond the 20-day limit currently set by the Flores Settlement Agreement.
- Mandate the controversial practice of DNA testing at the border and immediately deporting anyone who refused.
- Amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to allow unaccompanied children to be immediately expelled from the border.
- Reinstate several Trump administration policies—including the Migrant Protection Protocols program—and resume border wall construction.
Legal Immigration Bills
Two of the recently introduced bills target legal immigration channels. If passed, the bills would:
- Eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which grants green cards to 50,000 randomly selected people from countries with low levels of immigration to the United States.
- Impose criminal penalties on people who overstay their visas—requiring them to pay $500 per day that they remain in the United States, face a year of jail time, or both.
Funding and Enforcement Bills
The remaining four bills focus on immigration-related funding and enforcement issues. If passed, the bills would:
- Withhold federal grants from jurisdictions with “sanctuary” policies and give extra legal protections to local law enforcement who cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Defund several actions taken during Biden’s first week in office, including a reversal of ICE’s new enforcement priorities and revoking federal support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.
- Cut a plan to create a regional framework with Central American countries to address the root causes of migration.
- Remove safety measures and personnel (including the National Guard) currently protecting the U.S. Capitol and place them at the southern border.
- Make it a federal crime to flee from law enforcement officials when being pursued for an immigration-related offense.
The likelihood of these bills passing in the current Congress is slim. But it’s important to continue to monitor these and other anti-immigration measures, as they will likely come up again in the lead up to the 2022 midterm elections.