Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, will soon introduce legislation that would require the immediate deportation of unaccompanied children and take new steps to ensure illegal immigrants show up for deportation hearings.
The bill would also condition foreign aid to Central America on increased steps on their part to stop the flow of people trying to cross over the U.S. border.
The bill is likely to be championed by Republicans as an alternative to the Obama administration’s request for $3.7 billion, which the GOP says will mostly go toward detaining and caring for thousands of children, but will not deter illegal immigration.
It’s also another sign that Republicans in Congress are unlikely to accept President Barack Obama’s request as it stands, and will fight to make adjustments to the proposal.
“Today we face a humanitarian crisis along our southern border, and Congress must act to amend our immigration law and provide law enforcement the ability to return these children home as safely and expeditiously as possible,” McCain said Thursday. “This crisis will continue until the parents who paid thousands of dollars to smuggle their children north to the United States see plane-loads of them landing back at home – their money wasted.”
“The federal government will only stem the flow of unaccompanied minors to the United States when their parents see us sending them right back,” said Flake. “This legislation gives the administration the flexibility it has requested so it can begin to do just that.”
Current law does not allow the government to immediately deport children from non-contiguous countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Obama administration officials have said they want some kind of flexibility here, but have not described exactly what they want at various committee hearings.
The McCain-Flake bill would amend the 2008 law to require swifter deportations of children from these countries, equalizing their treatment with the treatment of children from Mexico. A statement released by the two senators said this change, among others, would help deport these children within “hours or days” instead of months or years.
Officials have admitted that 46 percent of illegal immigrants released into the country with family members don’t show up for deportation hearings. The two senators’ bill aims to resolve that by requiring ankle monitors to be placed on these immigrants as they wait for their hearing date.
Elsewhere, the bill would increase immigration judges and create a new immigration docket for juveniles, and increase refugee visas for the three countries to encourage people to apply for legal status in their home country.