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Group: Changes to Migrant Processing   04/17 06:34

   A federal advisory group is calling for significant changes to how the 
federal government deals with the surge of migrant families that officials say 
is overwhelming the southern border.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal advisory group is calling for significant 
changes to how the federal government deals with the surge of migrant families 
that officials say is overwhelming the southern border.

   In a draft report unveiled Tuesday, a committee of the Homeland Security 
Advisory Council called on the Trump administration to immediately establish 
three to four regional migrant processing centers along the southwest border 
with Mexico. The bipartisan group also endorsed changes to an agreement that 
generally bars the government from keeping children in immigration detention 
for more than 20 days.

   The report comes as border officials say they are struggling to cope with an 
influx of Central American families, with U.S. Border Patrol apprehending a 
record-setting 53,000 families in March.

   "There is a real crisis at our border," say the authors, who include 
immigration experts, lawyers, former federal officials and a medical doctor. 
"An unprecedented surge in family unit migration from Central America is 
overwhelming our border agencies and our immigration system. This crisis is 
endangering children."

   The report calls for the establishment of new centers where migrant families 
would be processed by immigration officials, receive medical care and have 
their asylum cases heard by immigration judges. And they want to see a similar 
processing center established in Guatemala, near that country's border with 
Mexico, so migrants can make asylum claims without having to make the dangerous 
trek to the U.S.

   The report also calls for changes to a court settlement that would allow 
authorities to hold minor children who enter the country with guardians for 
longer than 20 days and changes that would allow border agents to take 
photographs and collect the biometric data of children under 14 "in order to 
stem the recycling of children at the border and to rapidly determine the 
legitimacy of parentage claims," among other measures.

   Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan welcomed the report, 
releasing a statement Tuesday night saying, "The reasonable changes proposed by 
this nonpartisan panel could dramatically reduce migration of family units from 
Central America, help eliminate dangerous and illegal border crossings, as well 
as improve the care of children who are brought on this harrowing journey."

   The Trump administration supports asylum changes and other steps to slow the 
influx of migrants at the border as President Donald Trump tries to make good 
on his 2016 campaign promises and energize his base going into 2020.

   But Katharina Obser of the Women's Refugee Commission said many of the ideas 
in the report would only exacerbate the problem.

   "It is long overdue for the government to invest its existing funds in a 
comprehensive, legal and humane approach to protection at our borders," she 
said, but many of the report's recommendations "would do little to better care 
for vulnerable families and children seeking protection in the United States."

   If implemented, the recommendations could "exacerbate the situation at the 
border, further traumatize and endanger families and children and betray our 
legal and moral obligations to ensure access to a safe and fair asylum 
process," she said.


(CZ)

 
 
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