House Republicans passed a bill Thursday that would destroy the process to gain asylum in the United States.
The measure, which has been slammed by immigrants’ rights advocates, passed by a vote of 219–213, with just two Republicans joining all of the Democrats to oppose it. The bill squeaked through hours before the expiration of Title 42, the pandemic-era public health emergency measure that allows officials to turn away anyone at the border, regardless of whether they are seeking asylum.
The bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has also vowed to veto it on the off chance it does. But the bill has a number of hard-line measures that show exactly what Republicans would do if they ever retake control of both chambers.
To start, the bill would require Customs and Border Protection to hire and train 22,000 more agents. It would also require the secretary of homeland security to resume construction of the border wall, a key policy under Donald Trump. The secretary would also have power to block any immigrant from entering the U.S. if doing so is deemed “necessary in order to achieve operational control over” the border. While current Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is unlikely to use this power, the secretary in a future Republican administration very well could.
Migrants who have passed through another country on their way to the U.S. and did not first seek asylum along the way could be considered ineligible for asylum. Once they reach the U.S., people would have to seek asylum at a designated port of entry, instead of crossing the border at any point. This effectively limits who can claim asylum to Mexicans, Canadians, or anyone lucky enough to have a tourist visa to those countries. The bill would also generally expand the reasons someone could be deemed ineligible for asylum.
Under current law, children cannot be detained longer than 20 days. But the bill would revise anti-trafficking laws to allow migrant children to be detained with their parents for the entirety of their immigration court process. Immigration officers could also let unaccompanied children withdraw their asylum applications, “even if the child is unable to make an independent decision to withdraw the application.”
The bill would also increase requirements for business owners to verify that potential employees have permission to work in the U.S., which would make hiring migrant workers less desirable. This could take a massive toll on the U.S. economy, which is already facing a worker shortage and historically has relied heavily on immigrant workers.
Republicans insist that this bill will solve the problem at the border, one of their favorite political talking points. But Democrats warn that the measure does nothing to address the root causes of the huge wave of migration the U.S. is currently facing.
“How do they propose to address our broken, fragile immigration system?” asked House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. “They continue to bend the knee to the former twice-impeached president of the United States of America in terms of their policy proposals.”
“The Republican approach is anchored in xenophobia and fanning the flames of hatred and distrust and of irresponsible policies that will do nothing to solve the problem.”