Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich)
December 21, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2020
Amash introduces bills to protect asylum seekers and other immigrants
Bills reduce unnecessary prosecutions and detention of immigrants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) today introduced the Protect Asylum Seekers Act and the Practical Alternatives to Detention Act to protect asylum seekers and other immigrants from unnecessary prosecution, detention, or family separation.
“Unnecessarily subjecting immigrants to detention and criminally prosecuting asylum seekers who have caused no harm undermines our values and doesn’t serve our nation’s interests,” said Amash. “We need broad immigration reform, but until that becomes a reality, these targeted changes can limit some harms in the current system.”
Current law allows people to seek asylum in the United States regardless of where they entered the country, but it separately criminalizes the act of entering the country without going through a port of entry. This means someone seeking refuge from persecution in their home country may arrive in the United States only to find themselves prosecuted here simply for entering at the wrong spot. One consequence of such prosecutions can be the separation of children from their parents—an intended consequence of the “zero tolerance” policy implemented in 2018, which sought to prosecute everyone who committed the crime of improper entry.
The Protect Asylum Seekers Act makes U.S. policy toward asylum seekers more coherent and humane by providing that individuals who request asylum upon arrival in the United States will not have committed a crime if they crossed the border between ports of entry. This change will prevent unnecessary prosecutions and ensure parents aren’t separated from their children to accommodate such prosecutions. The bill also prohibits immigration authorities from separating families unless a child is in danger.
The Practical Alternatives to Detention Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to utilize alternatives to detention (ATD) programs for eligible individuals. These programs, which replace detention with case management services and electronic monitoring, have been proven to help immigrants comply with the immigration process through cheaper and more humane measures than detention. Access to ATD programs is especially important for families with children, pregnant women, people with medical needs, and those with elevated health risks related to public health emergencies such as pandemics. Accordingly, the Practical Alternatives to Detention Act prioritizes those populations, in addition to asylum seekers, for ATD programs.
Bill texts are attached.