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The Four Ways Washington Can Fix America’s Immigration Crisis

REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

With the House of Representatives returning to work this week, there’s likely no more pressing issue than the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

While illegal border crossings have gone down since President Donald Trump reached an agreement with Mexico in early June, this has still been a historic year for border apprehensions. U.S. Border Patrol has already detained 760,370 migrants at the southern border this year, more than twice as much as last year’s total.

America’s immigration system is fundamentally broken, but here are four ways it can be fixed.

Build The Wall: The simplest thing Congress could do would just be to increase the size of the barrier at the southern border. While Congress has repeatedly denied the president funding for his long-promised border wall, the administration is prepared to spend $3.6 billion in military funds to build 175 miles of wall. The Trump administration has received good news on this front recently, with the Supreme Court ruling in late July that the president had the authority to take $2.5 billion in military funds to fund construction, enough to build 100 miles of border wall.

A border wall alone would not fundamentally remake America’s immigration system, but it would likely serve as a way to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the country, making it easier for border patrol to do its job. (RELATED: Latest Budget Deal A Tough Pill To Swallow For Conservatives)

“While building a border wall is important, the current border crisis is being driven by the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into the country,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)  government relations director RJ Hauman told the Daily Caller.

A construction crew works on a bollard-type private border wall, crowd-funded by We Build The Wall group at Sunland Park, New Mexico, as pictured from Ciudad Juarez

A construction crew works on a bollard-type private border wall, crowd-funded by We Build The Wall group at Sunland Park, New Mexico, as pictured from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 30, 2019. (REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez)

Close Asylum Loopholes: Statistics show that the vast majority of migrants seeking asylum to the U.S. are doing so for economic reasons. Specifically, less than 4% of migrants coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras say they are fleeing violence, while 72% said they are coming to the U.S. for economic reasons, according to a 2017 study.

“Aliens should be required to clearly demonstrate a credible fear of persecution to stop fraud and help ensure that only legitimate claims are approved,” Hauman said. “To punish those who knowingly abuse our generosity, Congress should impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum claims, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.”

Right now, America’s immigration system is clogged up with meritless asylum claims. The Trump administration has taken steps to fix this, mandating that people with asylum claims seek asylum in other safe countries such as Mexico. The administration entered into a safe third party agreement with Guatemala in August and is attempting to do the same with Mexico. Absent agreements with other countries, Congress can alleviate the situation by increasing the “credible fear” standard that asylum seekers have to demonstrate. Republican Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson introduced the “Closing Asylum Loopholes Act,” which would be a good start towards improving America’s asylum system. (RELATED: Trump Will Delay Deportations To Work On ‘Solution’ With Congress)

What the past year has demonstrated is that America’s immigration system is fundamentally broken. The nation’s asylum system and lack of border security encourages migrants to make the long and dangerous trek from their home countries to the border. The facilities are overcrowded and children are dying as they make the difficult trek to the border. As Congress returns to Washington D.C. this week, there is no issue more urgent than the crisis at America’s southern border.

Tents are seen at a temporary holding facility for migrants that has been in use since early May, to hold the record numbers of migrants entering the El Paso border sector, in El Paso, Texas on May 31, 2019. (Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)

Increase The Number Of Immigration Judges And Facilities: One of the major problems with America’s current immigration system is the lack of resources the government has to deal with in order to process cases of migrants and asylum seekers. There are less than 400 immigration judges in the U.S. handling thousands of asylum claims every single month. Increasing the number of immigration judges would allow cases to be decided quicker and allow migrants to have their cases settled in a timely manner.

Congress should also fund facility upgrades and increase the number of beds in holding facilities. The crisis became so bad that ICE was forced to release over 160,000 migrant families in a five month span earlier this year because they lacked the space to hold them. Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz proposed a bill last year titled The Protect Kids and Parents Act, which would double the number of immigration judges, mandate that cases be decided within 14 days, and ends family separation. Cruz’s bill still serves as a blueprint for how Congress can solve this issue.

End The Flores Settlement: The Trump administration announced late last month that they were seeking to end the much-maligned Flores Agreement. Stemming from a 1997 Supreme Court ruling, the settlement prevents the government from holding most migrant families in custody for more than 20 days, and has been blamed for unpopular policies such as family separation and catch and release. (RELATED: CNN’s John King: Problems At The Border Didn’t Start With Trump)

“This loophole is the ‘jet engine’ driving the catch and release program,” Hauman said.

With the large influx of migrants coming into the southern border and the limited number of immigration judges, the Flores settlement is outdated and serves only to hamper the federal government from fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to secure the border.