Senate Democrats offered their ante to try to solve the border crisis, saying the hundreds of thousands of migrants surging north can be solved with nation-building in Central America and more humanitarian assistance to welcome those that do reach the U.S.
The bill would create new criminal penalties for human smuggling, and try to entice would-be migrants to apply for refugee status from their home region, rather than make the treacherous journey across Mexico.
And it would provide more counseling and wellness services for some illegal immigrants who make the trip anyway.
Led by Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrats billed the legislation as a “major legislative proposal” to answer the new surge of people at the border — though it’s a repeat of a bill they offered in the last Congress, which never gained any traction and which came when the border numbers were far less dramatic.
The legislation does not include more enforcement options, nor does it change the incentives that experts said are drawing illegal immigrant families by the tens of thousands each month, convincing them if they arrive with children they can game the system and gain an illegal foothold here.
Mr Durbin said he’s convinced the solutions to the surge of migration will require building better countries in Central America, which is the source of most of the migration.
“Our legislation would do just that – by addressing the root causes of violence in these countries, while also requiring accountability from the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to ensure they are taking appropriate steps domestically to combat corruption and address irregular migration,” he said.
Senate Republicans are set to announce their own plan, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, on Wednesday.
That plan will address the “pull” factors in U.S. law that are enticing the families to surge north.
President Trump has also requested $4.5 billion in emergency funding to help the government deal with the immediate crisis at the border. Most of that money would go to care for the illegal immigrant children who arrive without parents, but some would go to maintain detention capacity for single adult illegal immigrants.
It’s not clear there’s an appetite to do anything, though.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has downplayed the need for new legislation.
She says Congress took care of things earlier this year when it approved a spending bill that added more money for detecting drugs in vehicles at legal border crossings, and boosted humanitarian funding for illegal immigrants.
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