Chip Roy’s Border Bill ‘Abolishing Asylum’ Draws GOP Opposition

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AP Photo/Alex Brandon

When Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) secured his election after fifteen rounds of voting, he had to make certain concessions to House Republicans that were approved in a rules package on January 9. Chip Roy (R-TX) flipped his vote, supporting McCarthy on the 12th vote. San Antonio Express-News reports that among the concessions was a promise to fast-track Roy’s border security bill to a floor vote early this year.

Roy’s bill, H.R.29 – Border Safety and Security Act of 2023 is deemed controversial. More than 250 human rights, refugee, and immigration organizations sent a letter to members of Congress opposing the bill on January 12.

H.R.29 empowers the Secretary of Homeland Security Administration to eject asylum seekers, even when they have credible claims of fears of persecution, using executive discretion regarding detention capacities, imposes visa requirements, and allows state attorneys general to sue for lack of enforcement of these measures. 

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Director of the American Immigration Council, called the bill “a total end to asylum,” writing:

The first border bill the House GOP are set to vote on would impose permanent mandatory expulsions at EVERY border/airport for EVERYONE without a visa or valid entry document—even a child crossing alone or a baby found abandoned, no exceptions. It would be a total end to asylum.

Not only does the bill REQUIRE the end to asylum until literally every single person crossing can be detained (which is currently physically impossible), it also gives DHS a permanent discretionary authority to end asylum at every border.

There is opposition from GOP representatives, as well. On Saturday, Tony Gonzales (R-TX) tweeted:

The time for governing conservatives to lead is now. Harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric does nothing to help secure the border.

Gonzales tells San Antonio Express-News:

It proposes a total shutdown at our border to all migrants — leaving no exception for people in legitimate life-or-death situations.

Not only is this extreme — it could also lead to a greater reliance on smuggling groups for illegal crossings. There is no doubt that we need a tougher approach to border security, but to fix things long-term we need to take a deeper look at reforming our immigration system, not abolishing it.

On January 15, Gonzales posted a photo of children lying in a dirt field, claiming they had been dumped there by a cartel. He wrote:

The United States is a compassionate Christian nation. We all agree our asylum process needs MAJOR reform however abolishment is a step too far. The cartel dumped these babies in a field does denying them rescue make our border any more safe or secure?

On January 18, Roy tweeted that border security requires adjudication or turning “folks” away, while criticizing opponents who support Title 42, an executive order used to eject migrants based on the COVID-19 public health emergency. Roy wrote:

Securing the border requires detaining folks for adjudication of any claim (eg asylum) or turning away. Critics of such a policy should not be championing Title 42 (a health policy) which… turns away. #EndBorderCrisis

The number of arrivals at the border increased from November to December by 7 percent, fueled by increased migrants from Cuba and Nicaragua.

CBS News reports:

In December, U.S. officials along the Mexican border recorded 42,637 encounters with Cubans, and 35,389 encounters with Nicaraguans, all-time monthly highs for both nationalities.

On Thursday, the Biden administration wrapped up two days of talks with the Cuban government, and President Biden is reviewing Cuba’s inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which the Trump administration designated the nation as in 2021.

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