Myth: The bill would abolish voluntary return for unaccompanied minors.
Fact: The bill would make all unaccompanied minors eligible for voluntary return immediately, speeding the return of many unaccompanied minors to their home countries. Current law only allows UACs from contiguous countries to be eligible for voluntary return.
Myth: This bill will result in more people getting asylum.
Fact: This bill will reduce the number of migrant children granted asylum. Under the House Republican bill, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico would be treated the same as unaccompanied children from Mexico and made eligible for immediate return to their home countries, reducing the number of those who may claim asylum. This prioritization is expected to further reduce the number of applications for asylum given the fact that 95 percent of unaccompanied children who applied for asylum in FY 2014 did so after being in the U.S. for more than 100 days. Through the 3rd quarter of fiscal year 2014, only two percent of UACs have claimed asylum and only a portion of those claims were approved.
Myth: The bill appears to put the majority of unaccompanied minors in the new court proceedings, where they are permitted to withdraw their application for admission at any time.
Fact: This is false. The bill would only put unaccompanied minors who do not consent to voluntary return into court proceedings, and these court proceedings would be expedited to hasten the return of these children to their home countries.
Myth: The bill creates a new seven-day court proceeding for all unaccompanied minors in which an immigration judge determines whether a UAC has a claim for immigration relief.
Fact: The court removal proceedings are not seven-days long, but must occur within seven days. At this expedited removal proceeding, the child will be required to prove to the judge that they are eligible for relief from removal under current law and standards. If not, they will be ordered removed and detained until they are sent back home. This new expedited procedure allows the unaccompanied child no opportunity to appeal or delay proceedings
Myth: Unaccompanied children are screened for credible fear by the Border Patrol
Fact: Under both current law and the bill, border patrol agents cannot make a credible fear determination, they can merely refer an unaccompanied child for a credible fear interview. Even then, a credible fear screening is only the first step in the asylum process.
Myth: The majority of these UACs will claim a fear of persecution or state their intent to apply for asylum.
Fact: Through the 3rd quarter of FY 2014, only two percent of UACs have claimed asylum and only a portion of those claims were approved. Under current law, the first step in the asylum process is the credible fear interview at USCIS. If UACs succeed at this interview, they must be detained pending a final adjudication of the asylum claim. If they fail to prove their full claim, they will be ordered removed from the country.
Myth: The House bill states that the DHS Secretary “shall permit” UACs who have received Notices to Appear (issued since Jan. 1, 2013) to appear before an immigration judge in the new proceeding created by the bill, move to have the Notice to Appear “replaced,” and apply for admission to the U.S.
Fact: The bill does not allow for the re-opening of orders of removal. The bill would merely allow children who have received Notices to Appear, but not had a court date, to come into court, submit to government detention and either be voluntarily removed or immediately placed in a non-appealable removal hearing.
Myth: The House bill does not use the word “detention” but rather “custody.” This is an important distinction because “custody” can be satisfied by transferring a UAC to HHS, which places the UAC in a non-secure setting.
Fact: There is no evidence that children are absconding from or escaping from HHS facilities. HHS does maintain secure facilities for children who are a danger or flight risk. If a child does escape and abscond from their court proceedings, they will be ordered removed in absentia and become an immigration fugitive. Keeping all children in secure detention facilities is dangerous, excessive and unnecessary.
Myth: The changes to the 2008 law in this bill would achieve the reverse of the bill’s intention- that this bill would result in all unaccompanied child minors, from all countries, going through a longer process – the same process given to minors who have been victims of trafficking, has a credible fear of persecution, or is unable to make a decision about withdrawing their application
Fact: This is false. Other similar bills that amend the 2008 included drafting errors which created this unintentional consequence. The terminology in the bill requires that unaccompanied children meet certain requirements to be eligible for removal, including the fact that they were not a victim of sex trafficking. Some bills had drafted their text to say “does not meet” which would have created a double negative and in fact had the result of excluding all unaccompanied children from voluntary removal. This bill does not result in treating Mexican children like non-contiguous countries and uses the proper phrasing to ensure that all UACs are treated the same, thus speeding the return of these children to their home countries.