WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), to introduce a legislative proposal to respond to the immediate needs on the southern border. While not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, the Senators’ proposal would provide funding to federal officials and local communities responding to an increase in asylum seekers admitted into the United States as Title 42 comes to an end.
“Title 42 ending will have undeniable impacts, and it is vital that our local, state, and non-governmental organizations in New Mexico are fully equipped with the federal resources needed to ensure an orderly and humane process at the border,” said Heinrich. “While this emergency funding will go a long way to support our frontline personnel and communities rallying together to help those fleeing violence and persecution, we know this is just a Band-Aid solution to our nation’s broken immigration system. Until we have comprehensive immigration reform, every other solution we use will largely be short-term and piecemeal. There is more work to do, and I’m committed to doing it.”
“This legislation is crucial to help ensure that border communities and DHS are prepared to handle an influx of migrants at the border. I continue to push in Congress for common-sense immigration reform that will invest in border security and honor our commitment to asylum seekers,” said Luján. “Congress must work with the administration on border solutions, and I look forward to building support for this legislation alongside my colleagues.”
“Congress has failed to fix America’s broken immigration system, and today, our communities, businesses, and frontline law-enforcement officials are facing the consequences of congressional inaction,” Durbin said. “I have long urged my Republican colleagues to come to the table and negotiate on a bipartisan basis to pass comprehensive immigration reform. But American communities and federal officials need our assistance today, and this proposal will provide the resources needed to secure our border and meet the urgent needs of our communities. I hope my colleagues—Democrats and Republicans—support this proposal and show the American people that we can move past the partisan bickering to support frontline officials and American communities.”
“Congress must act to provide frontline border security personnel with the resources they need to safely and effectively carry out their challenging mission,” said Peters. “This bill will provide the resources and authorities needed to help secure the border, prevent illegal activities like drug trafficking, efficiently process asylum applications, and swiftly remove people whose applications are denied or are otherwise prohibited from remaining in the country.”
Along with Heinrich, Lujan, Durbin, and Peters, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
The Border Management, Security, and Assistance Act of 2023 includes the following key elements:
- Strengthens Border Security: This legislation would provide funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to increase capacity, personnel, and technology to strengthen security at the southern border. It would provide new resources for innovative technology and smarter capabilities that improve situational awareness between ports of entry, and significant investments to increase staff and improve technologies at ports of entry, including tools to prevent drug trafficking and other criminal activity. It would create a Transportation Coordinator to facilitate coordination between the federal government, and state and local governments.
- Consequences for Unlawful Entry: This legislation would provide resources to deter unlawful migration by enforcing consequences for unauthorized border crossings. The legislation would ensure efficient processing and swift removal of people whose applications are denied and are otherwise prohibited from remaining in the country, including by adding resources for immigration officers and judges to quickly screen and deny ineligible cases. It would also enhance penalties for human smuggling, drug trafficking, and illegal surveillance of border security personnel, and add resources for U.S. attorneys for increased law enforcement activities related to southwest border enforcement.
- Enhances Lawful Processes: This proposal would build upon the initial success of the Biden Administration’s Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela Parole program, which reduced apprehensions of nationals from those four countries by 97 percent, by providing resources for infrastructure to process migrants and asylum seekers in Latin America, and streamlining connections to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for groups experiencing persecution in the region. It would also increase resources for U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) to help the agency to ensure efficient processing of asylum claims and applications for employment authorization. Finally, it would improve the employment authorization process for individuals who comply with legal requirements.
- Supports American Communities: This proposal would provide local communities and nongovernmental organizations that are receiving asylum seekers—both at the border and in the interior of the United States—with the resources that they need and ensure that federal agencies are coordinating with such communities and organizations.
- Supports Frontline Personnel: This bill would provide additional support to frontline officials through hiring additional CBP officers, processing coordinators, and contracting staff to enable law enforcement personnel to carry out critical law enforcement duties. In recognition that our frontline personnel are critical to the nation’s security, the bill also provides critical funding to support employee retention, recruitment, and wellness efforts.
Bill text is available here