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Washington, D.C. —Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21) today supported a new proposal to address the crisis of increased illegal border crossings along the U.S. Southern border. Smith joined Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in introducing H.R. 5137, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act.

Congressman Smith: "The crisis on our Southern border has directly impacted millions in the Lone Star State and put the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants in jeopardy. But this is not simply a Texas problem. Community after community across the nation faces the reality of illegal immigrants being dropped off at their doorstep. Right now, every American lives on the border.

"Unlike the president’s funding request, our solution actually gets to the root of the problem: President Obama's policies as enacted by executive order and overly broad application of existing law. Our proposal expedites deportations and drastically restricts measures by which individuals might try to falsely claim asylum. I will continue to urge the President to take common-sense steps to clean up the mess that he created."

Other key components of the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act:

• Fast-tracks the removal of unaccompanied alien minors: Under the bill, all unaccompanied alien minors will be placed in expedited removal proceedings so they can be almost immediately returned home, unless they have a legitimate credible fear of persecution in their home country. Under current law, the Department of Homeland Security is unable to put Central American minors in expedited removal proceedings. As a result, they are released into our communities and are told to appear before an immigration judge years later. Many of them never show up for their hearing.

• Makes sure minors are returned home safely: The bill provides that the Secretary of State shall negotiate agreements with other countries regarding the safe repatriation of minors, just as the Secretary does now for countries contiguous to the U.S.

• Implements tougher standards for “credible fear” claims: In order to evade expedited removal proceedings, family units caught along the border or at ports of entry often claim a “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries and seek a hearing before an immigration judge. While awaiting the hearing, they are released into the U.S. and receive work authorization while their case is pending. The Obama Administration granted approximately 92% of all “credible fear” cases decided on the merits in Fiscal Year 2013, many of which were fraudulent and baseless. In fact, “credible fear” claims have increased 586% from 2007 to 2013 as word has spread about the rubberstamping of applications. The bill tightens the “credible fear” standard to weed out baseless claims. It also tightens the standard for release from detention under parole authority so that the Obama Administration doesn’t automatically release them before their claims are proved legitimate.

• Cracks down on asylum fraud: Under the bill, unaccompanied alien minors will not have preferred access to asylum that is not available to others. To reduce fraud, they are required to apply for asylum within a year of entry into the U.S. and are placed in removal proceedings.

• Protects our communities from gang members: The bill makes members of violent criminal gangs inadmissible to the United States and ineligible for asylum so that unaccompanied alien minor gang members can be more easily removed.

• Gives Border Patrol access to federal lands: Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector cite restrictions that bar access to federal lands as a significant stumbling block to securing the border. The Departments of Interior and Agriculture currently have rules that prevent Border Patrol agents from accessing federal lands near the border under the guise of environmental preservation. As a result, federal lands along the border provide drug traffickers, human smugglers, and unlawful immigrants effective routes and hiding places where Border Patrol agents cannot reach them. The bill contains language from Rep. Rob Bishop’s legislation to stop this foolish policy and give Border Patrol access to federal lands along the border.

• Protects American taxpayers: The Obama Administration wants American taxpayers to foot the bill for lawyers for unaccompanied alien minors in removal proceedings. While the law currently prohibits taxpayer dollars being used to pay for lawyers for unlawful immigrants, the bill makes this prohibition even more explicit to stop the Administration’s plan.

• Provides additional immigration judges and ICE prosecutors: The bill provides a temporary allotment of immigration judges and ICE prosecutors in order to deal with the surge at the border.

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