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This week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to call the Senate to vote on S. 4361, an anti-immigrant bill led by Senator Chris Murphy. The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) strongly opposes S.4361, which would decimate the United States asylum system, choke off access to protection for many, and render the system unfair and punishing for the few who are able to access it. Last week, we joined more than 100 organizations in urging Leader Schumer to reverse course.

The vote on this bill is a ploy that uses the lives of people seeking safety as pawns in an insidious political game. There is no doubt that the operational and humanitarian challenges on the United States’ southern border are grave. This bill responds to those challenges with jails, punishment, and disdain – an approach that is not only deadly but counterproductive, exacerbating chaos rather than ameliorating it. NIJC continues to call on elected officials to meet this moment with compassionate, rights-respecting policies that work. These solutions exist and we reiterate our call to elected officials to demonstrate the political will to discuss and implement them. 

S. 4361 is not the answer, and we urge senators to oppose the bill. In short, S. 4361 will:

  • Violate the Refugee Convention by closing the border to people seeking safety: The centerpiece provision of the bill requires the U.S. government to seal the border to people seeking asylum when the numbers of people arriving at the border reach a certain “trigger number.” This would force the U.S. to close its doors to countless people in need of asylum protection and send them back to harm.
  • Exacerbate the humanitarian and operational challenges on the border: Like the procedurally similar Title 42 policy, expulsions and unpredictable border closures will create chaos and incentivize organized crime on the border. Refusing to process people so they may seek safety in the U.S. will mean they are trapped – unable to return home and vulnerable to kidnappings and violent crime by cartels and other armed groups. Under Title 42, people in this untenable situation were forced to try multiple times to re-enter the U.S., exacerbating processing delays.
  • Make asylum largely inaccessible for those who are permitted to ask for it at ports of entry: The bill creates a rushed new process for people seeking asylum, starting with a screening interview most will fail under newly heightened standards. People facing rushed deportations under this new process will have no access to immigration judge or federal judge review, effectively guaranteeing wrongful deportations.
  • Punish asylum seekers with imprisonment, while enriching private prison companies: The bill seeks record-breaking funding for immigration detention – higher levels than seen even during the Trump administration. Private prison companies will reap the benefits, while refugees will be punished with incarceration for the mere act of seeking safety.

Read NIJC’s more detailed analysis here.