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Thursday, August 1, 2019

GOP Power Play Clears Path to Approve ASYLUM CRACKDOWN in Senate Committee

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member, prepare to take a break during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ** FILE **
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member, prepare to take a break during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)



Stephen Dinan

The Senate Judiciary Committee exploded in acrimony Thursday as Republicans flexed their majority to approve a bill to solve the border crisis by limiting border asylum claims and allowing migrants to be detained until they can be deported.
Outraged Democrats said they feared the bill would cut off too much immigration, condemning suffering migrants to life — or death — in their home countries. And, they complained, the GOP broke Senate rules to force the bill through.
Republicans brushed the complaints aside, saying it had become clear in recent weeks that Democrats weren’t willing to work on changes to U.S. policies that are inviting the migrant surge. So the GOP said it had to act alone, even if it stepped on Democratic toes.
“There is a crisis that’s turning into a disaster, somebody needs to shut off the flow. This shuts off the flow,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the committee, who led the push to pass the bill.
He said he’d been trying to negotiate with Democrats for seven weeks, offering to accept some of their ideas. But he said he realized they would never accept changes to asylum policy or court rulings that experts say are the driving factors behind the migrant surge.
The final straw for Mr. Graham came last week, when Democrats boycotted the committee to deny it a quorum to do business, stymying the chance to offer amendments or to pass the bill.
Mr. Graham kicked off this week’s meeting by immediately setting a final time for voting on the bill — and refused to listen to the howls of objection from Democrats.
“Why even have rules if they can be broken whenever it’s expedient to do so?” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
He would change a 2015 court ruling to allow illegal immigrant families to be held more in ICE detention dorms for longer than 20 days. The 20-day limit is too short to complete court cases, so under the current policy families are released, and most then disappear into the shadows, failing to show for their court cases, according to Justice Department statistics.
Mr. Graham’s legislation would also change the asylum system, banning claims made at the border. Instead, Central Americans with valid claims would have to make them at refugee processing centers in Latin America.
He acknowledged that was a major change to U.S. law, but said the situation demands it. He called it a “time out,” which he said would give the administration a chance to bring down the massive case backlog in immigration courts.
He said he was willing to work with Democrats to add items they wanted, such as more aid to Central American countries. But he said he didn’t get any takers.
Democrats said his bill overturned a number of protections for migrants. Mrs. Feinstein said they couldn’t accept those new limits.
“If the Statue of Liberty could weep, she would,” the California Democrat said.

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