The Border and Refugee Assistance Act of 2019 introduced by Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Filemon Vela (TX-34), and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) is a bill to lessen the flow of migrants at the border and expand the processing of refugees within their country of origin.
The legislation directs U.S. agencies to expand in-country refugee processing centers within Northern Triangle countries.
Under the bill, family units and minors in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador would be eligible to apply for refugee protections within their country of origin.
“Congressman Vela, Cuellar and I agree that we must do more in the Northern Triangle to address the push factors of mass migration and provide relief to our communities,” Gonzalez said. “By adjudicating refugee claims in their own country, we can help prevent a costly and dangerous trek across thousands of miles, and at the same time reduce the impact that this traffic has along our borders. This is just one part of an overall solution that requires coordination, innovation, common sense, and a sustained investment of time, energy and resources.”
On November 9, 2017, the Department of State stopped accepting new applications for the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program. The CAM program was established in 2014 to provide certain minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the opportunity to be considered for refugee resettlement in the United States while still in their home country. Recently, a Homeland Security Advisory Council issued a report recommending that the U.S. enter into an agreement with Guatemala to have a regional processing center on the Guatemala-Mexico border. The advisory council’s model requires congressional support – Congressmen Gonzalez, Vela, and Cuellar are seeking to answer this call.
“This proposal aims to provide a safe and orderly process for assessing refugee claims while ensuring humanitarian protection for individuals fleeing violence,” Vela said. “By allowing claims to be effectively processed within an individual’s country of origin, less people will be forced to make the dangerous journey to the border to present their claims.”
He said this proposal is just one piece of what needs to be a multifaceted response to the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle, including investments in improving security and governance in the region and investments in the United States’ own asylum, refugee, and immigration systems.
“By allowing migrants to safely claim asylum in their home countries, fewer asylum seekers will be forced to make perilous journeys to the southern border, decreasing the probability of being victimized and exploited by human traffickers,” Cuellar said. “It will also diminish the backlog of cases pending in immigration courts by reducing the number of new cases and deter fraudulent asylum claims that prevent the timely protection for legitimate refugees fleeing dire and dangerous circumstances.”
He said border communities like my hometown of Laredo are feeling the burden of housing migrants that come to our country to claim asylum.