Vote Explanation for H.R. 6136 — Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018
I voted against H.R. 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018, a so-called ‘compromise’ immigration bill that falls far short of addressing the major challenges facing our nation’s immigration system. On the Judiciary Chairman’s website, he touts it as “a consensus bill that is the product of negotiations between Republicans of all perspectives.” In other words, it’s completely partisan. As a result, the bill received fewer votes than any other recent immigration proposal. How about finding the courage to include Democrats in the debate? That’s how Congress is supposed to work, and it’s the only way we’re going to solve the immigration crisis. Here are more details on this failed legislation:
Under this bill, the thousands of DREAMers — our friends, neighbors, colleagues, students, and service members — would be placed under a new “contingent non-immigration” status, which is a six year indefinitely renewable status for DACA recipients that would put them on the pathway to citizenship. Individuals would qualify for this status if they meet one of the following criteria:
- Establish that they came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2007;
- Have lived continuously in the U.S. since at least June 15, 2012 and demonstrate that on that date they were younger than 31 years old and had no lawful status in the U.S.;
- Pass several government background checks, demonstrate “good moral character” with no felonies, significant misdemeanors, or multiple misdemeanor convictions, pay any applicable federal state or local taxes;
- Have not failed to comply with the requirements of any removal order or voluntary departure agreement and/or have not been ordered removed in absentia; and
- Prove that they are enrolled in or have acquired a diploma or degree from a high school in the U.S. or an equivalent.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would grant permanent resident (green card) status under a new merit system that awards points to applicants based on their level of education, employment history, military service, and English proficiency. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans included a funding trigger authorizing the President to cancel this pathway to citizenship if any amount of money allocated for a border wall is ever transferred for other purposes. This provision sets up DREAMers to once again be used as hostages to President Trump’s border wall.
Despite the public outcry over the treatment of immigrants and their families, the bill requires DHS to incarcerate families immediately when charges are filed against a parent for illegally crossing the border and repeals the Flores settlement. This court decision requires detained children to be placed with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay” rather than keeping them in custody.
H.R. 6136 would terminate the diversity visa lottery program, which allows people from countries with very low immigration rates to the U.S. to apply for the opportunity to enter a lottery for a visa. Approximately 50,000 green cards are given to those that win the lottery program, after being carefully vetted by the federal government, and is an essential program that helps to diversify and enrich the population of our country.
Seeking asylum is a legal right recognized by the United States and democracies around the world. This legislation would diminish protections for those seeking asylum by raising the “credible fear” test, which is used by Immigration Judges to determine if an individual has a legitimate fear of persecution or death. The new obstacles facing asylum seekers in the bill are further compounded by the fact that Border Patrol agents have been ordered to ask people for their IDs and turn away anyone who seeks asylum.
Lastly, this legislation provides $23.4 billion for a border wall that President Trump claimed Mexico would pay for. Not only is a border wall an ill-conceived idea, it is also an extreme waste of taxpayer dollars that will not actually put an end to illegal immigration. All the immigration officials I asked about the wall on my recent border trip thought it was a ridiculous idea; they want border security, but they know Trump’s wall won’t work.
When I was down on U.S.-Mexico border, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) volunteer said to me, “Our immigration system has always been broken. But now, it’s broken and inhumane.” America is better than this.