LGBTQ immigrants who cross the southern border from Mexico into the United States may not be held in detention under new legislation being proposed by a group of Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate.
The extraordinary proposals are aimed at ‘setting minimum standards’ for detention facilities where thousands of illegal aliens are already being kept as they are await processing.
The legislation, which is being introduced by Democrats Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, is being framed as ‘an attempt to restore humanity and dignity to the immigration system.’
Although the idea is to relieve some of the pressure in numbers waiting in an already overloaded immigration system, it would mean that anyone claiming to be a ‘vulnerable person’ would be able to avoid detention altogether and be free to go.
The bill also carries an extremely broad definition of what is considered to be a ‘vulnerable person’ and includes anyone under 21 or over 60, pregnant women, anyone identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQ+), A victim or witness to a crime, and those with mental or physical illnesses or disabilities, to name but a few of the main categories.
Aliens who have a credible fear of persecution, ‘limited English language proficiency,’ those experiencing ‘severe trauma,’ and survivors of ‘torture or gender-based violence’ would also meet the definition of a ‘vulnerable person.’ In such cases, the DHS would review each case individually before deciding to detain it.
Legislation being introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Democrats Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal is being framed as ‘an attempt to restore humanity and dignity to the immigration system’
Migrants stand near the border wall after crossing the Rio Bravo river with the intention of turning themselves in to the US Border Patrol agents, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Migrant encounters in February 2023 were at their lowest level since 2021 but increased once again in March
The bill, entitled Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act also creates a ‘special rule for vulnerable persons and primary caregivers,’ which would prevent their detention unless the Department of Homeland Security can demonstrate that community-based supervision is not reasonable or practicable.
‘Our immigration system has allowed the unjust treatment of immigrants and stripped them of their humanity and due process,’ Booker said in a statement. ‘We must respect and protect the basic rights of immigrants detained in the United States.’
The bill leans heavily in the favor of immigrants and could bring into force new rules on the detention of illegal aliens giving DHS officials only 48 hours to decide whether an illegal should be detained – and only if it has been considered that ‘the release of an The alien will not reasonably ensure the appearance of the alien as required or will endanger the safety’ of others.
In those cases, DHS ‘shall impose the least restrictive conditions’ for detention, and ensure they get a custody hearing within 72 hours. And in those hearings, ‘there shall be a presumption that the alien should be released,’ the bill states.
Democrats supporting the bill argue that the proposed legislation is necessary to restore the dignity of aliens held in detention after attempting to enter the US
Migrants walk into US custody after crossing the border from Mexico, Ciudad Juarez
Migrants cross the Rio Grande river into the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Migrants walk alongside the US border wall, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
They believe that the current immigration system has allowed for the unjust treatment of immigrants and stripped them of their humanity and due process.
‘The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act urgently reforms the alarming injustices of a broken, for-profit immigration detention system by ending the use of private detention facilities altogether, repealing mandatory detention, and prohibiting family detention while also restoring due process and increasing oversight, accountability , and transparency measures,’ said Jayapal. ‘This is a measure that will go a long way to restoring humanity and dignity to the immigration system.’
Alongside Booker and Jayapal the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is sponsored by dozens of House and Senate Democrats, including House Majority Whip Katherine Clark and Washington State Representative Adam Smith.
‘This bill is a crucial step forward to bringing due process back to our immigration system and centering the humanity and dignity of people who come to our country to build a better life,’ said Smith.
Separately, Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez unveiled an immigration plan on Tuesday for the Biden administration that focused mostly on executive actions that would bypass the gridlock of Congress.
The outline called for promoting new pathways to citizenship, giving more humanitarian aid to specific countries, increasing funding for border security and launching further efforts to target human traffickers.
But on Monday House Republicans unveiled their own sweeping immigration bill that would tighten asylum eligibility, expand migrant family detention and crack down on employment of undocumented workers.
The House Judicial Committee is expected to mark the bill up on Wednesday. It’s likely dead on arrival in the Senate and may face difficulties getting through the House, given that Republicans have differing ideas on how to best tackle immigration.
Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas faced a verbal smackdown from Republicans during a hearing on Tuesday
On Tuesday of this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faced a verbal smackdown from Republicans during a hearing, with some demanding he resign and one suggesting a ‘no confidence’ vote.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Ky., told the secretary he has been ‘derelict in his duties’ and said he planned to introduce a draft resolution that would require the Senate to hold a no confidence vote ‘in the coming days.’
On the House side Republicans have been calling for impeachment for a long time, but no articles have been put up for a vote. Marshall noted a need to support the House’s impeachment efforts.
‘I stand at the ready to receive articles of impeachment from the House and conduct an impeachment trial in this body. But in the meantime, I think the Senate must show our colleagues in the House that we’ve had enough of the failures from the Department of Homeland Security and believe that the secretary is not fit to faithfully carry out the duties of his office,’ he said.
The House must approve articles of impeachment before an investigation can formally be launched in the Senate.
At one point during the Homeland Security Committee hearing Mayorkas asked the senator if he could respond. Marshall shot him down: ‘I want you to answer my questions, not give me lectures.’
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., at one point estimated between 4 million and 5 million people had crossed the southern border over the last two years. Mayorkas replied that he is ‘very, very focused on the security of our border.’
‘No you’re not. No you’re not,” Johnson objected. ‘I don’t want to listen to that.’
Johnson then asked Mayorkas how many girls are sex trafficked at the southern border and the secretary said his department has made fighting human dealings a priority.
‘But you are failing miserably,’ said Johnson.
‘You’re not giving me any stats whatsoever in terms of the number of people that are human trafficked, how many young girls are sex trafficked,’ Johnson said. You don’t have a clue. You won’t even answer how many dead bodies, which is very well documented, at the border.’
‘Do you not care?’ the Wisconsin Republican added. ‘Do you not have just an ounce of human compassion for what your open border policy is, the kind of human depredations it is causing? You just sit there looking with a blank look on your face.’
He again listed off the number of border crossers over the last two years. ‘And you’re saying this is a priority?’ he said. ‘Mr. Secretary, you ought to resign.’
Democrat Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., reprimanded his GOP colleagues to lighten up on the secretary.
‘I just want to take a moment to ask my colleagues here today to treat the secretary with the respect he deserves,’ Carper said, noting Mayorkas’ dedication to the tough job.
Migrants surrender to the American authorities to request political asylum in the United States, on April 17, 2023 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
‘I was raised – my guess is most of the folks in this committee were raised – to treat other people the way we want to be treated. I wouldn’t treat anyone the way that I’ve seen you treated before in other committees and again here by at least one of our colleagues today.’
But Sen. Josh Hawley backed up the calls to resign. ‘You should have resigned long ago and if you cannot change course, you should be removed from office,’ Hawley, R-Mo., said.
Meanwhile in the lower chamber Homeland Security Chair Rep. Mark Green said told donors he would produce high crimes and misdemeanors charges against Mayorkas.
Mayorkas told the senators it was up to Congress to reform a ‘broken’ immigration system.
Some of the Republican lawmakers set their sights on New York Times reporting that Biden administration officials were aware of unaccompanied children brought to the border being trafficked into child labor.
Placing unaccompanied children in the care of vetted guardians mostly falls to Health and Human Services (HHS).
But Hawley accused Mayorkas of ‘pressuring officials and agencies to skip the vetting process and get these kids out as soon as possible to sponsors who weren’t vetted.’
The Times’ reporting did not mention Mayorkas and mostly focused on the role of HHS and high-level Biden officials.
‘Senator, I look forward to discussing this issue further because you are misstating the facts so terribly,’ Mayorkas said.
‘You are failing miserably,’ Sen. Ron Johnson told Mayorkas, demanding he resign
Sen. Roger Marshall said he would propose a no-confidence vote to the DHS secretary