CGRS Calls on Senate to Reject Trump-McConnell Bill, Reopen Government

Thursday, January 24, 2019


The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) urges the Senate to reject the “End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act,” which was introduced by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week. The Trump-McConnell bill contains numerous extreme provisions that would slam the door on vulnerable children and refugees.

The Trump-McConnell bill would severely undermine asylum and trafficking protections for children fleeing violence and persecution in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). The bill would bar these children from applying for asylum at the border or within the United States. Instead, they would be forced to apply for protection through a new, highly restrictive resettlement program that would approve a maximum of 15,000 new applications each year. The program would require that children prepare their own applications and pay a processing fee that for many could be prohibitive. Only children with a “qualifying” relative in the United States would be considered eligible for protection, and decisions would be made entirely by the Department of Homeland Security, with no opportunity for judicial review.

The resettlement program proposed in the Trump-McConnell bill would undoubtedly leave the most vulnerable refugee children at grave risk. Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran children who seek asylum are fleeing a region plagued by pervasive violence against young people. Many who choose to make the treacherous journey north are literally running for their lives. Forcing them to wait for their applications to be processed and turning those who reach our southern border away would endanger countless children. Moreover, the bill’s bar on asylum applications at the border and within the United States would take immediate effect, despite the fact that the proposed program would require up to 240 days to establish. This means that if enacted, the Trump-McConnell bill could for eight months completely shut out all refugee children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  

The Trump-McConnell bill includes numerous other provisions designed to undermine asylum seekers’ ability to access protection. For example, the bill restricts asylum seekers from pursuing other forms of humanitarian protection to which they may be eligible, narrowing potential pathways to immigration relief. And while the bill has been presented as a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, it in fact imposes new restrictions that severely limit the availability of DACA and TPS protections.

The Trump-McConnell bill marks a shameful attempt on the part of the president and Senate Republican leadership to hold federal workers hostage in exchange for a collection of cruel and untenable policy proposals. CGRS joins partners nationwide in calling on the Senate to instead pass H.R. 268, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019, and immediately reopen the government.