Today, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its assessment of H.R. 5230, House Republicans’ bill to address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. A central component of the legislation is an update to a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which will speed up the process of returning migrant children to their home countries. Under current law, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico or Canada who cross our border illegally are ineligible for immediate removal. Obama administration officials supported fixing this law before they were against it.
Here are two key facts about the House Republican bill:
It will increase the number of migrant children immediately returned to their home countries. “CBO considers it likely that enacting Division B [of H.R. 5230] would reduce the number of children present in the United States receiving meansâ€tested federal benefits, thereby reducing direct spending for such benefits,” the report states.
It will reduce the number of migrant children granted asylum. Critics have claimed otherwise, but this is incorrect. To start, “Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs),” a technical terms used by the federal government, accounted for less than two percent (718) of all new asylum applications received (44,446) in FY 2013. Moreover, every year since FY 2012, only about two percent of all UACs apprehended by Border Patrol have applied for asylum. This rate remained fairly steady in the first three quarters of FY 2014, when 1,532 applied. Some critics have pointed to a House Judiciary Committee press release stating that “65% of unaccompanied alien minors’ asylum applications have been immediately approved by asylum officers in Fiscal Year 2014.” However, this 65 percent must be applied to the two percent of UACs who actually applied for asylum, making the number of those receiving asylum in the first three quarters of FY 2014 when the surge of illegal immigration was at its height a relatively small one – especially considering the Obama administration’s estimate that as many as 90,000 UACs could be apprehended by Border Patrol by the end of this fiscal year (September 30).
Under the House Republican bill, UACs from countries other than Mexico would be treated the same as UACs from Mexico and made eligible for immediate return to their home countries, reducing the number of those who may claim asylum. For those that stay in federal custody to await an expedited immigration court hearing, the bill would require their hearing to occur within a week, and it would prioritize removal of UACs who most recently arrived in the U.S., a policy of “last in, first out.” This prioritization is expected to further reduce the number of applications for asylum given the fact that 95 percent of UACs who applied for asylum in FY 2014 did so after being in the U.S. for more than 100 days.
Finally, House Republicans’ bill would ensure that noncitizens convicted of a drug-related felony are not eligible for asylum. It should also be noted that in order to receive asylum, applicants must have a specific, personal fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Violence and instability in an applicant’s home country, while unfortunate, are not sufficient factors.
For more key facts about the House Republican bill, click here.