The same Texas lawmaker who wants to secure the southern border by defunding the department tasked with border security is author of the GOP House’s first immigration-related bill. Chip Roy’s “Border Safety and Security Act” provides anything but safety and security, ordering the mandatory expulsion of all people seeking asylum—every single one of them, no matter if they are unaccompanied children, no matter how strong their case, all of them—indefinitely.
It is as draconian and catastrophic as you’d imagine, but completely unsurprising from a party that’s dumped off sick children like a bag of trash in the name of political campaigning. Because it imposes completely unrealistic standards before U.S. officials would be allowed to again process migrants seeking refuge, it would represent an end to the U.S. asylum system, our laws and international obligations be damned.
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The bill, which Roy first introduced during the last Congress, “would require a wholly unserious and harmful metric to be met before any asylum claim could be entertained, inevitably ending access to asylum at all U.S. borders, even for children,” dozens of alarmed organizations said in a Jan. 12 letter urging members to oppose the proposal.
Experts said that the bill closes off asylum until all recently arrived migrants can be detained, an impossible requirement. The organizations further noted the bill gives the Department of Homeland Security “discretion to suspend all asylum access until ‘operational control’ of the border is achieved” under standards described by experts as “tremendously unrealistic,” the organizations said.
This sort of impossible threshold is a Republican trademark. Florida’s María Elvira Salazar last year introduced an immigration bill she claimed provided “a dignified solution to immigrants currently living in the US.” But even this supposedly humane alternative also required ridiculous standards before a pathway to citizenship would be available to families.
“The ‘Border Safety and Security Act’ has nothing to do with safety or any kind of effort to address the real and complicated challenges posed by the worldwide increase in migration, and everything to do with an alarming uptick in hateful rhetoric and violence targeting asylum seekers and immigrants in the United States,” the organizations said. A lying former press secretary gets politely asked to leave a restaurant and the nation melts down; a gunman who called himself “eyes for America” pointed his weapon at migrants outside an El Paso church and it barely makes it ripple in the news.
The fact is that as House Republicans introduce their nativist agenda, the vast majority of Americans support the US asylum system. “In fact, a majority of Democrats (87%), Republicans (57%), and Independents (74%) support asylum,” polling released by the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign last month said. Remember, midterm voters also largely rejected nativist candidates who’d bear-hugged anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, like Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona.
But despite all their feigned outrage over immigration, Republican lawmakers are really not interested in resolving any issues at the southern border. They want perceived chaos, they want continued migrant suffering, they want to continue using human beings as props in order to divide and to win elections.
Roy’s bill is dead on arrival in the Senate even if it does pass the House. But it’s not meant to be serious, it’s meant to send a message, both to base voters and to immigrants. Remember that GOP autopsy report back when Mitt Romney lost in 2012? Basically it warned the party that unless it stops being such an asshole to people like immigrants, it’ll cease to be a national party. Republicans won the 2016 election but saw major losses in 2018, 2020, and now in 2022. Republicans have made perfectly clear they think the 2012 advice is trash, and have put all their cards on winning by being as hostile as possible.
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