Carter-Aderholt: A Better House Border Surge Bill

By Dan Cadman, August 1, 2014

Yesterday, Speaker John Boehner canceled a vote in the House of Representatives on a bill aimed at providing supplemental funding to replenish funds for agencies dealing with the surge of tens of thousands of aliens across the border into Texas; and to amend various substantive provisions of law affecting how those aliens, particularly minors, will be handled.

Apparently the vote was canceled because the Speaker could not muster the votes necessary for passage of that bill, the Secure the Southwest Border Act (SSBA) of 2014.

This is just as well: although the emergency funding addressed in Division A of the bill was well and tightly crafted, Division B was little but an unfortunate re-hashing of the seriously flawed Cornyn-Cuellar HUMANE Act previously introduced with no success.

Now another bill has been introduced by Representatives John Carter and Robert Adelholt, that replaces that language. It is short and straightforward; it does not promise one thing but deliver another; and it is focused and direct in what it undertakes to fix, which are only the pertinent portions of three provisions of existing law:

  • Section 235 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (otherwise known as the "Wilberforce Act"), dealing with unaccompanied alien children. The bill provides for consistent treatment of unaccompanied illegal alien children (UAC) regardless of country of citizenship, so that juveniles from non-contiguous countries may be allowed to request speedier repatriation instead of adding to the clogged and dysfunctional immigration court system. In addition, the bill directs immigration authorities to collect information about those taking custody of recently-arrived UACs and initiating deportation proceedings if appropriate. It clarifies that UACs may not receive taxpayer-funded legal counsel.
  • Section 101(a)(27)(J) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), dealing with the definition of special immigrant juveniles. The bill clarifies that only those juveniles who cannot be reunified with either parent (as opposed to both parents, under current law) may qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile green cards.
  • Section 208 of the INA, dealing with how minors' asylum claims are handled, so that initial jurisdiction over the case is with the immigration courts, rather than USCIS, which is more susceptible to political pressure to approve claims.

The one notable weakness of the bill is that it does not include reforms proposed in the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (a good bill, but also, apparently, going nowhere).

See here for an interleafed version of what the affected portions of law would look like, were the Carter-Aderholt bill to pass into law.