Lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing border crisis

A group of Republican and Democratic senators and representatives have filed legislation aimed at addressing the current crisis along our southern border.

The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act was introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-Tx), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-Dist. 28) and Tony Gonzales (R-Dist. 23).

“We got to try something. We cannot just wait here,” said Cuellar.

All four lawmakers agree inaction will only further deepen the crisis on the border.

“Right now the border patrol says right now there are no consequences associated with entering the united states illegally,” said Cornyn.

As KPRC 2 Investigates has shown you, the number of immigrants apprehended along the border has hit a near 20 year high. Border Patrol is overwhelmed.

“We need help today,” said Gonzales.

According to a news release from Cornyn’s office, the proposed legislation calls for several changes to the way cases are handled on the border.

  • Establishes at least 4 regional processing centers in high-traffic Border Patrol sectors to properly handle the influx of migrants along the southwest border and improve interagency coordination.
  • Creates pilot programs to facilitate fairer and more efficient credible fear determinations and asylum decisions, while ensuring fairness in proceedings through provisions to protect access to counsel, language translation services, and legal orientations.
  • Establishes prioritized docketing of migrants’ immigration court cases during irregular migration influx events to deliver legal certainty for migrants., and disincentivize would-be migrants with weak asylum claims from making the treacherous journey to the southwest border.
  • Expands legal orientation programming and translation services, and protects access to counsel for migrants.
  • Implements new protections for unaccompanied migrant children released to sponsors in the United States, including regular follow-up and absolute bars on placement with persons convicted of certain crimes, such as sex offenders and child abusers.
  • Increases staffing to better handle irregular migration influx events, including 150 new Immigration Judge teams, 300 asylum officers, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff, ICE litigation teams, CBP officers, and Border Patrol processing coordinators.
  • Improves DHS coordination with NGOs and local governments to prevent the release of migrants into small communities that are poorly equipped to handle the influx of a large number of migrants.
  • Improves DHS, DOJ, and HHS reporting to Congress to support future legislative efforts in areas in which bipartisan agreement does not yet exist.

“What we have to do is put them at the border so we can have their day in court and if they have to be returned, they’re right there at the border,” said Cuellar.

Lawmakers said this bill would eliminate the release of thousands of immigrants who are feeding a growing backlog of cases in immigration court and it would help free up agents to focus on their main mission of patrolling the border.

“Taking border patrol agents out of the processing business and putting them back in the national security business,” said Gonzales.

Cornyn and Cuellar also said until the current crisis is dealt with, it will be difficult to address other problems within our immigration system.

“Until we get this under a little bit better control I think it’s going to be very difficult for us to move any kind of substantive legislation,” said Cornyn. “We need to address the crisis first so we can then get back to fairly normal operating procedures.”

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”