The NCSL Blog

10

By Christian Burks and Xavier Roberts

Congress held several hearings on immigration issues in late April, including how to improve the U.S.’s legal immigration system and manage the increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the border.

immigration card

Hearings highlights:

  • In “The Non-Governmental Organization Perspective on the Southwest Border,” the Senate Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management debated the causes of the recent increase in arrivals at the border and how best to respond. Republicans and their invited witnesses argued that the increase stems from the Biden administration’s rollback of Trump-era policies and “pull factors” such as health care and a reduced threat of deportation. Democratic senators and their invited witness argued that restrictive border and asylum seeking policies fail to make the border more orderly and instead discourage people from using legal channels to enter the country and create a cycle of people repeatedly crossing the border after being expelled.
  • In “Unaccompanied Children at the Border: Stakeholder Perspectives on the Way Forward” from the House Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, majority witnesses argued that the Biden administration’s efforts to address the increase in unaccompanied children at the border has been a driving force in reducing the number of children in CBP custody from a high of 5,767 on March 28 to 1,741 on April 22. They offered policy recommendations for improving the processing of asylum seekers, such as expanding access to legal counsel and welfare workers for children at the border and investing in the root causes of migration rather than pursuing deterrence. The minority witness shared different recommendations to resolve the border situation, advocating for a restoration of Trump-era policies and a removal of the special privileges unaccompanied children have been granted by past legislation and court decisions.
  • On the topic of legal immigration, in “Why Don’t They Just Get in Line? Barriers to Legal Immigration” from the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, majority witnesses recommended that the U.S. streamline and improve its legal immigration system by increasing current caps and the rate of processing for employment and family visas and by rethinking per-country caps that force immigrants from larger countries to face longer wait times. The minority-invited witness argued Congress does not need to expand the U.S.’s already robust legal immigration system and should instead focus on protecting American workers by ensuring the border is secure and limiting the flow of low-skill workers into the country.

Christian Burks is an intern and Xavier Roberts is a fellow in NCSL's State-Federal Program. 

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.