(WASHINGTON) — A pair of Texas lawmakers — one Senate Republican and one House Democrat — are introducing legislation Tuesday to make it easier to swiftly send tens of thousands of young migrants back to Central America after they were caught trying to cross the U.S. border illegally.
Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar briefed reporters Monday night on their measure, known as the HUMANE Act, which would change a 2008 law that provided extra protection to children arriving from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — or any non-contiguous country like Mexico and Canada.
The bill effectively calls for all unaccompanied minors to be treated the same as those from other countries — with speedy immigration hearings held within a week — rather than drawn-out proceedings in the backlogged immigration system where the children often slip through the cracks and stay in the United States illegally.
“We would treat all the unaccompanied minors the same — whether they are from Central America, Mexico or Canada,” Cornyn said.
The legislation allows young migrants to make a case before an immigration judge within seven days. The bill calls for 40 new immigration judges.
The proposal is being met with strong opposition from immigrant-rights groups and most Democratic lawmakers, who say the United States has a moral responsibility to step into the humanitarian crisis at the border and help those who are escaping violence at home.
Cornyn said he and other Republicans cannot support President Obama’s $3.7 billion request to address the border crisis without significant reforms to the law.
The bill could be considered as soon as next week in the Republican-controlled House, but is expected to face significant hurdles in the Democratic-controlled Senate. So far, no Democratic Senator has signed onto the Cornyn-Cuellar proposal.
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Eric Bradner, Dana Bash and MJ Lee, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Eric Bradner, CNN
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal