The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 (S.425) is a controversial legislation that Senator Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina) introduced on February 14, 2023. This bill seeks to significantly change the asylum process and policies regarding migrant families and unaccompanied children.
Graham submitted similar legislation in 2019 called the Secure and Protect Act of 2019. While it did pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, it did not pass in Congress.
While some provisions of the Secure and Protect Act of 2023 may streamline specific aspects of the immigration process, there are concerns that the legislation could also create additional barriers for vulnerable individuals seeking protection in the United States.
Additionally, the potential implications of these changes on the well-being and rights of migrant families and unaccompanied children have raised significant concerns among immigration advocates and human rights organizations.
As the bill moves through the legislative process, it will be crucial for policymakers and stakeholders to carefully consider the potential consequences of these proposed changes on immigration policy and migrant communities.
This overview will delve into the details of the Secure and Protect Act of 2023 and its potential consequences by highlighting 19 changes that could significantly impact immigration policy and affect those seeking help through asylum in the United States.
The bill effectively eliminates the Flores settlement agreement, which currently mandates that migrant children be held in detention for no more than 20 days. This agreement, established in the case of Flores v. Reno, also sets minimum standards for the care, treatment, and release of immigrant children.
Under the Flores Settlement Agreement, the following key provisions are in place:
In contrast, the Secure and Protect Act of 2023 would allow for the detention of migrant children with their parents or guardians “pending the completion of removal proceedings,” extending the time migrant children can be held in family detention. This change has the potential to result in longer periods of confinement for migrant families, which could have various implications for their well-being and mental health.
The bill grants the Secretary of Homeland Security sole discretion to determine detention conditions for migrant children with their parents or guardians. Although the legislation does outline some baseline requirements for family residential facilities, this increased discretion could lead to varied conditions across detention centers and raises concerns about the potential for reduced accountability in ensuring adequate care for detained migrant families.
The proposed legislation prioritizes removal proceedings for migrant children and families by setting a 100-day completion goal for such cases. This accelerated timeline could lead to expedited removals but also pressure immigration courts and increase the risk of errors or oversights in adjudication.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 bars states from mandating state licensure for immigration detention centers that house families. This change may reduce state oversight of these facilities, affecting family detention centers’ quality and safety standards.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 allows for the expedited repatriation of unaccompanied migrant children (UMCs) from countries other than Canada and Mexico. This provision extends the swift return policy currently applicable only to children from contiguous countries, potentially resulting in more UMCs being returned to their home countries.
Under the proposed legislation, UMCs must remain in government custody during their immigration proceedings (except for those with sponsors or access to programs for unaccompanied children).
Prolonging UMCs’ confinement may subject them to additional psychological and emotional stress. Moreover, this policy may also strain government resources because the cost and capacity of detention facilities would need to be expanded to accommodate a potentially larger number of children.
The bill requires UMCs to meet a higher standard of proof to pursue humanitarian relief. They must show they are “more likely than not” to be trafficked, persecuted, or tortured in their home countries. This increased burden of proof may make it more difficult for vulnerable unaccompanied children to obtain the necessary protections.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 delegates conducting interviews related to unaccompanied migrant children (UMCs) to immigration officers with specialized training. These officers’ decisions are deemed final and cannot be reviewed, which may expedite the process. However, this approach also raises concerns about the possibility of errors or injustices in the decision-making process because there is no avenue for appeal.
The bill restricts eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status to unaccompanied children who cannot reunify with either parent. This limitation may exclude some vulnerable children who may have been eligible for SIJ status under the previous criteria, potentially leaving them without a pathway to legal status in the United States.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 aims to narrow eligibility for asylum claims by limiting it to individuals who enter the United States through designated ports of entry. As a result, those who enter through unofficial routes would be ineligible for asylum, reducing the number of applicants. This change could have significant implications for asylum-seeking individuals, potentially leaving vulnerable people without access to critical protections and benefits.
Additionally, implementing this policy could have broader implications for immigration enforcement and border control, affecting the number of people attempting to enter the country through unofficial routes.
The bill also redefines “credible fear,” raising the initial standard of proof for asylum seekers. They would now need to demonstrate that they are “more likely than not” to establish eligibility for asylum, making it more difficult for applicants to pass the initial screening process.
The bill introduces a fee for applications at the refugee processing centers, which could create an additional barrier for asylum seekers, particularly those with limited financial resources.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 proposes establishing at least four refugee application and processing centers across Mexico and Central America. Asylum seekers from these regions and their neighboring countries would be required to apply for protection at these centers without entering the U.S., thus shifting the asylum process away from the U.S. border.
Under the new legislation, refugee officers would adjudicate cases submitted at the processing centers. This change would centralize the decision-making process and potentially streamline the processing of asylum applications. However, it could also prompt concerns about the quality and fairness of decisions.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 also broadens the grounds for asylum ineligibility to include any felonies and prior removals. This expansion would further narrow the pool of eligible asylum seekers and potentially disqualify many applicants with a criminal history or previous deportation from the United States.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 seeks to limit the executive branch’s power to grant humanitarian parole. This would be achieved by preventing the government from granting parole to an entire group of people based on certain characteristics or circumstances. As a result, fewer people could benefit from this discretionary form of relief.
The bill also makes it harder for people to qualify for humanitarian parole by listing specific situations that would warrant parole. This more restrictive definition could make it more challenging for individuals needing humanitarian protection to obtain parole because they would have to meet the exact criteria described in the legislation.
The Secure and Protect Act of 2023 instructs the Attorney General to hire at least 500 more immigration judges and support staff. This increase is intended to tackle the immigration court backlog that has caused long wait times for asylum seekers and other immigrants going through the legal process.
The bill not only adds more immigration judges, but it also requires an increase in the staff of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including attorneys, that corresponds to the number of new judges. This expansion aims to strengthen the ability of ICE to manage and process immigration cases more effectively.
Filing for asylum is a complex process, and it can be difficult to successfully navigate this legal system without the help of an experienced attorney. At Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C., our attorneys are well-versed in the latest changes to U.S. immigration law and can help you find the best path to achieving the relief you need.
Contact us today to learn how we can assist in your asylum case.
View Similar Articles