WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, joined Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, in introducing legislation Tuesday to ensure the prompt return of unaccompanied alien children who illegally cross the southern border. The legislation is a companion bill to legislation introduced by Representative John R. Carter, (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, and passed by the House Judiciary Committee last year.
Sen. Johnson said, “Last year, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released “The State of America’s Border Security,” a report highlighting that since 2009, the U.S. has apprehended 122,700 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but only 7,700, or 6 percent, have been repatriated. As a result of the incentives for illegal immigration created by this administration's policies, more children continue to migrate to the United States.
"The Protection of Children Act eliminates a well-intentioned but misguided policy that incentivizes children to embark on the dangerous journey to the United States. If enacted, this bill will address the current humanitarian crisis at our border head-on. I am pleased to support this legislation with Sen. Sessions.”
Sen. Sessions said, “The American people want and deserve a lawful immigration system, but instead we have a system that is manipulated at every turn resulting in a virtual collapse of enforcement. Not surprisingly, in recent months the number of purported unaccompanied alien children crossing our southern border has more than doubled. As a result, our nation’s schools, hospitals, and social services are facing massive, unsustainable strain.
“This crisis is the natural consequence of this Administration’s policies and continued exploitation of our immigration laws. The only way to stop the illegality is to ensure those who enter unlawfully, including children, are treated well but returned home quickly. Assurance of being returned sends a powerful message louder than words. The word will spread and the number attempting illegal entry will quickly fall. This legislation will send the message that America is going to enforce its laws and its borders by closing loopholes, eliminating fraud, and removing dangerous incentives for illegal immigration."
The Protection of Children Act (S. 2561) would: (1) eliminate the laws that subject unaccompanied alien children to two sets of rules depending on their country of origin, and instead subject all such individuals to the same process to ensure their expeditious return home if they have not been trafficked and do not have a valid asylum claim; (2) close a loophole that allows these individuals to have their asylum claims heard twice, instead of just once; (3) close a loophole that allows certain individuals living with a parent in the U.S. to receive Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which is supposed to be reserved for children abandoned by both parents; (4) provide authority for the negotiation of agreements with foreign countries regarding the procedures by which unaccompanied alien children are repatriated; (5) require the collection of certain basic information about individuals to whose custody unaccompanied alien children are released; (5) ensures that taxpayer dollars do not pay for attorneys for these individuals, consistent with decades of precedent; and (6) ensure that removal hearings for unaccompanied alien children occur promptly.
A PDF of S.2561 can be found here.