Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) forced the asylum bill through his Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Aug. 1, following what he described as seven weeks of waiting unsuccessfully for Democrats to negotiate before the August recess.
Graham introduced the bill on May 15 in an effort to take emergency action to stem and respond to the record-high number of migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There is a crisis that’s turning into a disaster, and somebody needs to shut off the flow,” Graham said during the bill mark-up Thursday morning.
The committee voted along party lines 12-10 in favor of the South Carolina Republican’s Secure and Protect Act, setting it up for a full Senate vote. The bill is meant to be a comprehensive conservative response to the border crisis.
The bill requires asylum-seekers from Central America to apply for asylum outside of the United States before applying here. Graham’s bill also extended the time that migrant families must be kept in detention centers from 20 days to 100 days, in order to help avoid immigration fraud.
The bill will ensure that unaccompanied children migrating from Central America be sent back to their home country after a screening, following the procedure for children entering from Canada and Mexico.
Graham accused Democrats of intentionally refusing to show up to a hearing on the bill last week, and having delayed its passing for seven weeks.
“Here’s the way I take what you did last week, you’re saying I really can’t be chairman. After seven weeks of holding my own bill, under this scenario I can’t even pass a bill that I introduced as chairman because two of you won’t show up,” Graham said. “I will work with you as long as I can in good faith, but you are not going to take my job away from me! I take this very personally. I tried my best.”
“I will no longer allow our asylum laws to be exploited by human traffickers, smugglers and cartels,” Graham said in an official statement. “Cartels, smugglers and human traffickers are profiting off immigrants and helping them take advantage of our broken asylum laws. I will no longer allow the loopholes in our laws to be exploited. I will not aid and abet these horrific practices. My bill fixes these problems.”