Late Sunday afternoon, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released a supplemental funding bill that includes significant funding and policy reforms intended to address an unsustainable situation along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There are many elements of this bill that we are very grateful for, and other elements that we find concerning,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of government relations at World Relief. “We are thankful for the bipartisan leadership to address the very real challenges at our border, which absolutely require Congressional action, as both the current and past administrations’ efforts to bring about a more orderly, secure border solely through executive actions have been stymied without legislative policy changes and adequate resources.”
The bill would make a number of significant changes, including:
- Appropriating approximately $20 billion in funds for border security, immigration enforcement and asylum processing
- Redefining the initial standard for those seeking asylum on account of a well-founded fear of persecution, making it more difficult to begin an asylum request in the United States
- Expanding asylum adjudication capacity to provide asylum decisions within a shorter time frame for those who are allowed to pursue asylum, while also allowing these individuals access to employment authorization sooner
- Defining a “border emergency” situation when the U.S. government would remove those who cross between ports of entry without the opportunity to seek asylum
- Providing Afghan allies paroled into the U.S. the opportunity to apply for permanent legal status
- Allowing 50,000 new immigrant visas annually for family- and employer-sponsored immigrants
World Relief has previously highlighted the ways that robust due process protections for asylum seekers are a vital tool to protect persecuted Christians and others fleeing religious persecution, along with those persecuted for other reasons.
“This bill would allow for much faster adjudication of asylum requests and allow those waiting on asylum to work lawfully and provide for their families, addressing very serious current challenges,” said Matthew Soerens, Vice President for Advocacy and Policy at World Relief.
“But the provisions that would shut down asylum requests between ports of entry altogether at times of high arrivals are concerning, especially given the reality that limited capacity at ports of entry has often meant that those fleeing a genuine fear of persecution must wait for very long times in dangerous situations to begin an asylum request there.”
World Relief is disappointed that the bill does not address other longstanding immigration policy priorities, such as a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers or an earned legalization process for other undocumented immigrants. Despite the limited scope of this proposal, the leadership of the House of Representatives has already indicated it is unlikely to receive a vote.
“As Christians, we affirm both that God has ordained governments to ensure security and order and that our laws should protect those fleeing persecution, each of whom we believe was made in God’s image with inherent dignity,” said Myal Greene, President and CEO of World Relief.
“Our prayer — though it may require a miracle in the current political environment — is that this initial, good-faith bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate will ultimately lead to a more comprehensive bill that will pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law.”
World Relief provides legal services to asylum seekers and other immigrants through its network of offices and by providing support to church-based legal services programs throughout the United States. For more information, visit https://worldrelief.org/immigration-legal-services/.