Florence Project Responds to the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act

The Florence Project stands in strong opposition to the “Bipartisan Border Solutions Act” introduced by Senators Kyrsten Sinema and John Cornyn and Representatives Henry Cuellar and Tony Gonzales yesterday.

The bill takes no meaningful steps to reform our broken immigration system. Instead of using the substantial government resources proposed in the bill to craft a more humane, fair, and efficient system, the bill merely puts a veneer of justice and due process on what is little more than a streamlined deportation process. In fact, this bill moves the same broken immigration process that we already have further away from legal service providers, attorneys, and other community resources to facilitate fast removal orders along the border. It gives more power to Customs and Border Protection, an agency with a long, sordid history of abusing and mistreating the migrants in its custody.

This bill also seeks to rush the initial steps of the asylum process at the expense of meaningful access to counsel and due process. It is simply not possible for people to receive comprehensive legal orientations and be prepared for an initial credible fear interview, the first step in seeking asylum, within 72 hours of their arrival to the United States. We know from years of failed pilot programs and “rocket dockets” in immigration court that these initiatives lead to massive due process violations with few, if any, gains in efficiency. It is more effective, humane, and fair to spend the substantial investment this bill proposes to engage in meaningful reform that prioritizes due process and access to counsel.

Further, this bill will result in unnecessary detention of unaccompanied children. While federal law requires that the government place unaccompanied children in the least restrictive setting that is in the child’s best interest, the bill introduces unnecessary barriers and deterrents like a requirement that all members of the household receiving a child submit to background checks, often including invasive DNA samples. The government already has the authority to require such screening as necessary but making this a blanket requirement for all children interferes with their right to be released to family members and will result in harmful and lengthy detention for thousands of children.

Rather than provide more funding for cruel and punitive immigration detention of adults and children, and a mechanism that forces immigrants through an expedited removal process far from family and resources, Congress should be focused on real reforms that prioritize fairness and justice, including establishing universal legal representation for immigrants. Studies show that over 90% of immigrants appear for court when they have counsel. Immigration detention, whether in ICE detention centers or in CBP custody at the border, is cruel, punitive, and unnecessary. The deterrence and detention framework is as fundamentally flawed as it is morally corrupt. The only way to create a more efficient and fair system is to make sure those seeking refuge on our shores have access to full legal representation throughout their case, to end immigration detention, and create a system that prioritizes access to due process. This bill does none of those things.

The American people and the people seeking refuge on our shores deserve humane solutions and forward progress, rather than window dressing on a broken system.