Lindsey Graham's new immigration proposal: Allow Trump to detain kids five times longer

Trump's Senate henchman offers a bold new plan for migrant kids seeking asylum: Lock 'em up!

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 16, 2019 5:30PM (EDT)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Getty/Anna Moneymaker)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Getty/Anna Moneymaker)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will propose a new bill that would extend the possible detention of migrant children from 20 days to 100 days.

Graham told CBS News the bill would help “regain control of our border.” Among other things, this legislation would reverse a longstanding rule that migrant children cannot be held in federal detention for more than 20 days. The rule was adopted after the 1997 Supreme Court Flores agreement, which created protections for migrant children who arrived in the United States with family or on their own.

"We need more time and more bed space. The best way to stop that flow is to send them back to their country as you would with Canada or Mexico," Graham told CBS News.

The bill would implement a change that the Trump administration has long sought. Graham, who has been accused of doing Trump’s dirty work in the Senate, said his bill would be more effective than Trump’s proposed border wall.

"We have a perfect storm brewing at the border because of a series of broken and outdated laws related to asylum and children," he said. "No matter how high the wall will be built ... no matter how many agents you put at the border, they'll keep coming because they want to get caught."

The bill would also bar asylum claims at the border and force migrants to seek asylum at a U.S. consulate in their home countries, even if their lives are in danger. The legislation would also require children to be sent back to their home countries if they were brought here by their families, and would fund the hiring of 500 new immigration judges.

Graham told Fox News last week that the bill is aimed at discouraging parents from bringing their children across the border. He said the bill would also help address the backlog of asylum claims in the immigration court system.

"We're gonna go to 100 days, we can hold minor children for 100 days so we can actually process the entire family without letting them go,” he said. “We're gonna increase judges by 500; we got almost 900,000 backlog of asylum claims. We're gonna wipe out the backlog [of asylum claims.]"

Graham’s bill comes after the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to get a court to override the Flores agreement and scrap the 20-day rule.

A federal judge rejected the Trump’s administration attempt to extend the detention of families, calling it a “cynical attempt” to override a longstanding court settlement.

In defending the bill, Graham cited a frequently used Trump falsehood that “nobody ever shows up for the [asylum] hearing” when they are released into the United States. In fact, 89 percent of asylum-seekers showed up for their court dates in 2017 and 91 percent showed up in 2016, according to the Justice Department. President Obama tried to address the rest of the cases by creating a program in which a case manager assisted asylum-seekers, which saw a 100 percent attendance rate. Trump scrapped the program in 2017.

It’s unclear how much support the bill would receive from other Republicans. Democrats are certainly expected to oppose the move. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is also trying to convince Republicans to back his own immigration plan, though Republicans who met with Kushner this week privately told the press that they questioned whether he “understood the issue” at all.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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