The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.

— Dr. Selee

The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.

— Dr. Starr

We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US.

— Dr. Selee

Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum.

— Ms. Kocherga

SEPTEMBER 19-22, 2019

Discussion: Border Issues

 

Sen. John Cullerton (IL): Are most of these Central American immigrants legal or illegal?

Dr. Selee: Most are asylum seekers, which means they are legally in the US until their hearing, when they could be denied asylum and be deported. In September, 2019, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce new rules. Only those previously denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through are eligible for asylum in the US. However, this is being challenged.

John O’Connor (PhRMA): If applicants have to wait two years for an asylum hearing, how do they survive?

Dr. Selee: Immigrants awaiting an asylum hearing have an intermediate status, they are legal until their hearing. Many work jobs in agriculture, construction, and hospitality that would otherwise remain vacant. If they think they may be deported, they may disappear.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): In our State, we need these people as workers. Is anything likely to change before the next election? Does President Trump’s rhetoric stop them? If there is no path to asylum, they cannot apply and become legal. Is there any ground for optimism?

Dr. Selee: The opposition to immigration is really code for other issues such as: “I like Trump”; “Protect our job security;” “Limit diversity.” However, reasonable people, both Democrats and Republicans, can figure out how to have an efficient, fair asylum system and identify where a wall makes sense. The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.

Sen. Brent Hill (ID): How can the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) check 1 million people and $2 billion in goods crossing the border every day?

Dr. Selee: The US checks about half a million border crossers each day. The CBP uses risk segmentation, checking people at different levels depending on their status.

Frequent crossers:People and trucks that are frequent crossers can get a bar-code that speeds their entry. Trucks from respected shipping companies who are self-policing have a special fast lane with spot checks (about 1 out of 8 trucks). These companies are vigilant because they do not want to lose the ability to cross the border.Pre-inspection:There is a dedicated lane for inspection before reaching the border.Sharing information:Mexican and US border authorities share intelligence and depend on each other.

Dr. Starr: Illegal goods do make it through the border including drugs— such as cocaine and fentanyl—where small amounts are easy to hide but bring in large returns, enter the US, while guns from the US are smuggled into Mexico.

Sen. Martin Looney (CT): What possible US engagements in Central America would be practical and needed to help stabilize the region?

Dr. Selee: People will stay in a well-run country. In El Salvador, for example, the US has people it can work with to stabilize the economy and the rule of law. In Guatemala and Honduras, government corruption and organized crime makes it more difficult to work together. The US and the international community could contribute most to Central America by supporting the rule of law, not the politicians. Unfortunately, the US Agency for International Development (US-AID) has cut its programs in the region.

Dr. Starr: The US made a big mistake when the Administration did not insist that the UN Anti-Corruption Task Force remain in Central America. Providing support for the rule of law in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is not only an intelligent response, it is the most essential thing the US can do to help, and is in our own national interest. The US and Mexico are one country economically. And the Mexican President is a reasonable ally with whom to work. The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.

Sen. Karen Fann (AZ): Some immigrants are asylum seekers, but there is a dark side and major concerns about border security: for example, when gang members enter the US and murder ranchers and border agents, or when drugs are smuggled into our towns. Trash is ruining our water ways and the ecology balance.

Ms. Kocherga: It is true that criminal elements and drugs also come across the border. But the wall is only a symbol. It will not stop them. People who live on the border want security, and we need to find common ground. A forced choice between a continuous wall vs no wall is not reasonable. We need a more informed discussion.

Dr. Selee: The US needs a tough but fair policy. Illegal immigration undermines the system and needs to be curtailed, but we also have to be fair to people who are fleeing for their lives or seeking to work at open jobs. We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US. US immigration policy should provide:

Enforcement – to be tough

Legal channels – to be fair

Protection – to shield people fleeing persecution.

Ms. Kocherga: Technologic improvements could also contribute to border security, as well as funding and training the CBP.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): The US birth rate is down and we need more workers, that is a key consideration for our State. But I have two questions: Do the cartels control the crossings and get the money? How can the immigration process be improved when we have a rule in place that says children can only be held for 20 days?

Dr. Selee: Cartels have some control over who can cross their territories, and smugglers must pay them off to get their “clients” across.

The 20-day rule was extended in 2015 to cover minors traveling with their families. Smugglers used this as a marketing ploy: “Bring your children for an extra $1000 and you’ll be able to benefit from the 20-day rule.” This buys them time to apply for asylum.

Solutions to improve the system could include putting border agents in charge of asylum claims to enable quick hearings, and using a case management model to move people through the system.

David Long (IceMiller LLP): What about children who are not really family members, perhaps being used in sex trafficking?

Ms. Kocherga: Sex trafficking is a serious risk for vulnerable children. The CBP has started DNA testing to prove child/parent relationships; however, many children are either coming to join families who are already established in the US or are accompanied by extended family, such as grandparents or close neighbors. If a child is admitted but the companion is denied admission, they often have no money left and no way to get back to their home country.

Dr. Selee: In the initial DNA tests, 0.5% of those tested were not related. But, in Central America, “families” are intergenerational and communal, including neighbors.

Currently, the largest immigration in the world is the 5 million Venezuelans who have fled into Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile.

Ms. Kocherga: In Central America, 15 year-old children are threatened that they must join a gang or be killed or have their family members killed. Many are forced to flee to avoid these threats.

Tom Finneran (Moderator): To get asylum, immigrants need to be able to prove that they have been threatened or experienced violence. How do they prove this?

Dr. Selee: Very few people have documents to prove their situation. How can you prove that your daughter was threatened with death if she did not become the gang leader’s sex slave?  The asylum concept first arose during the Holocaust and the Cold War, when immigrants were political refugees. Central American immigrants today are not fleeing the government but gangs, which sometimes are complicit with local police forces.

Ms. Kocherga: Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum. Currently, 15% of Guatemalans and 23% of El Salvadorans applicants are granted asylum.

Senators Stuart Adams (UT), at left, and Martin Looney (CT), at right, enjoyed the time to connect in the informal setting of the Forum.

Sen. John Cullerton (IL)

Dr. Selee

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT)

Sen. Brent Hill (ID)

Sen. Martin Looney (CT)

Sen. Karen Fann (AZ)

David Long (IceMiller LLP)
poses a question during the
immigration discussion.

Tom Finneran (Moderator)

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Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706

 

Tel: 914-693-1818

Copyright © 2019 Senate Presidents' Forum. All rights reserved.

SEPTEMBER 19-22, 2019

Discussion: Border Issues

 

Sen. John Cullerton (IL): Are most of these Central American immigrants legal or illegal?

Dr. Selee: Most are asylum seekers, which means they are legally in the US until their hearing, when they could be denied asylum and be deported. In September, 2019, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce new rules. Only those previously denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through are eligible for asylum in the US. However, this is being challenged.

John O’Connor (PhRMA): If applicants have to wait two years for an asylum hearing, how do they survive?

Dr. Selee: Immigrants awaiting an asylum hearing have an intermediate status, they are legal until their hearing. Many work jobs in agriculture, construction, and hospitality that would otherwise remain vacant. If they think they may be deported, they may disappear.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): In our State, we need these people as workers. Is anything likely to change before the next election? Does President Trump’s rhetoric stop them? If there is no path to asylum, they cannot apply and become legal. Is there any ground for optimism?

Dr. Selee: The opposition to immigration is really code for other issues such as: “I like Trump”; “Protect our job security;” “Limit diversity.” However, reasonable people, both Democrats and Republicans, can figure out how to have an efficient, fair asylum system and identify where a wall makes sense. The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.

The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.— Dr. Selee

Sen. Brent Hill (ID): How can the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) check 1 million people and $2 billion in goods crossing the border every day?

Dr. Selee: The US checks about half a million border crossers each day. The CBP uses risk segmentation, checking people at different levels depending on their status.

Frequent crossers:People and trucks that are frequent crossers can get a bar-code that speeds their entry. Trucks from respected shipping companies who are self-policing have a special fast lane with spot checks (about 1 out of 8 trucks). These companies are vigilant because they do not want to lose the ability to cross the border.Pre-inspection:There is a dedicated lane for inspection before reaching the border.Sharing information:Mexican and US border authorities share intelligence and depend on each other.

Dr. Starr: Illegal goods do make it through the border including drugs— such as cocaine and fentanyl—where small amounts are easy to hide but bring in large returns, enter the US, while guns from the US are smuggled into Mexico.

Sen. Martin Looney (CT): What possible US engagements in Central America would be practical and needed to help stabilize the region?

Dr. Selee: People will stay in a well-run country. In El Salvador, for example, the US has people it can work with to stabilize the economy and the rule of law. In Guatemala and Honduras, government corruption and organized crime makes it more difficult to work together. The US and the international community could contribute most to Central America by supporting the rule of law, not the politicians. Unfortunately, the US Agency for International Development (US-AID) has cut its programs in the region.

Dr. Starr: The US made a big mistake when the Administration did not insist that the UN Anti-Corruption Task Force remain in Central America. Providing support for the rule of law in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is not only an intelligent response, it is the most essential thing the US can do to help, and is in our own national interest. The US and Mexico are one country economically. And the Mexican President is a reasonable ally with whom to work. The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.

The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.— Dr. Starr

Sen. Karen Fann (AZ): Some immigrants are asylum seekers, but there is a dark side and major concerns about border security: for example, when gang members enter the US and murder ranchers and border agents, or when drugs are smuggled into our towns. Trash is ruining our water ways and the ecology balance.

Ms. Kocherga: It is true that criminal elements and drugs also come across the border. But the wall is only a symbol. It will not stop them. People who live on the border want security, and we need to find common ground. A forced choice between a continuous wall vs no wall is not reasonable. We need a more informed discussion.

Dr. Selee: The US needs a tough but fair policy. Illegal immigration undermines the system and needs to be curtailed, but we also have to be fair to people who are fleeing for their lives or seeking to work at open jobs. We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US. US immigration policy should provide:

Enforcement – to be tough

Legal channels – to be fair

Protection – to shield people fleeing persecution.

We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US.— Dr. Selee

Ms. Kocherga: Technologic improvements could also contribute to border security, as well as funding and training the CBP.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): The US birth rate is down and we need more workers, that is a key consideration for our State. But I have two questions: Do the cartels control the crossings and get the money? How can the immigration process be improved when we have a rule in place that says children can only be held for 20 days?

Dr. Selee: Cartels have some control over who can cross their territories, and smugglers must pay them off to get their “clients” across.

The 20-day rule was extended in 2015 to cover minors traveling with their families. Smugglers used this as a marketing ploy: “Bring your children for an extra $1000 and you’ll be able to benefit from the 20-day rule.” This buys them time to apply for asylum.

Solutions to improve the system could include putting border agents in charge of asylum claims to enable quick hearings, and using a case management model to move people through the system.

David Long (IceMiller LLP): What about children who are not really family members, perhaps being used in sex trafficking?

Ms. Kocherga: Sex trafficking is a serious risk for vulnerable children. The CBP has started DNA testing to prove child/parent relationships; however, many children are either coming to join families who are already established in the US or are accompanied by extended family, such as grandparents or close neighbors. If a child is admitted but the companion is denied admission, they often have no money left and no way to get back to their home country.

Dr. Selee: In the initial DNA tests, 0.5% of those tested were not related. But, in Central America, “families” are intergenerational and communal, including neighbors.

Currently, the largest immigration in the world is the 5 million Venezuelans who have fled into Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile.

Ms. Kocherga: In Central America, 15 year-old children are threatened that they must join a gang or be killed or have their family members killed. Many are forced to flee to avoid these threats.

Tom Finneran (Moderator): To get asylum, immigrants need to be able to prove that they have been threatened or experienced violence. How do they prove this?

Dr. Selee: Very few people have documents to prove their situation. How can you prove that your daughter was threatened with death if she did not become the gang leader’s sex slave?  The asylum concept first arose during the Holocaust and the Cold War, when immigrants were political refugees. Central American immigrants today are not fleeing the government but gangs, which sometimes are complicit with local police forces.

Ms. Kocherga: Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum. Currently, 15% of Guatemalans and 23% of El Salvadorans applicants are granted asylum.

Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum.— Ms. Kocherga

Senators Stuart Adams (UT), at left, and Martin Looney (CT), at right, enjoyed the time to connect in the informal setting of the Forum.

SEPTEMBER 19-22, 2019

Discussion: Border Issues

Sen. John Cullerton (IL): Are most of these Central American immigrants legal or illegal?

Dr. Selee: Most are asylum seekers, which means they are legally in the US until their hearing, when they could be denied asylum and be deported. In September, 2019, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce new rules. Only those previously denied asylum in one of the countries they traveled through are eligible for asylum in the US. However, this is being challenged.

John O’Connor (PhRMA): If applicants have to wait two years for an asylum hearing, how do they survive?

Dr. Selee: Immigrants awaiting an asylum hearing have an intermediate status, they are legal until their hearing. Many work jobs in agriculture, construction, and hospitality that would otherwise remain vacant. If they think they may be deported, they may disappear.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): In our State, we need these people as workers. Is anything likely to change before the next election? Does President Trump’s rhetoric stop them? If there is no path to asylum, they cannot apply and become legal. Is there any ground for optimism?

Dr. Selee: The opposition to immigration is really code for other issues such as: “I like Trump”; “Protect our job security;” “Limit diversity.” However, reasonable people, both Democrats and Republicans, can figure out how to have an efficient, fair asylum system and identify where a wall makes sense. The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.

The US could set up labor recruiting centers in Central America to recruit workers needed in the US. This way, people would have jobs and a legal status before they immigrated.— Dr. Selee

Sen. Brent Hill (ID): How can the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) check 1 million people and $2 billion in goods crossing the border every day?

Dr. Selee: The US checks about half a million border crossers each day. The CBP uses risk segmentation, checking people at different levels depending on their status.

Frequent crossers:People and trucks that are frequent crossers can get a bar-code that speeds their entry. Trucks from respected shipping companies who are self-policing have a special fast lane with spot checks (about 1 out of 8 trucks). These companies are vigilant because they do not want to lose the ability to cross the border.Pre-inspection:There is a dedicated lane for inspection before reaching the border.Sharing information:Mexican and US border authorities share intelligence and depend on each other.

Dr. Starr: Illegal goods do make it through the border including drugs— such as cocaine and fentanyl—where small amounts are easy to hide but bring in large returns, enter the US, while guns from the US are smuggled into Mexico.

Sen. Martin Looney (CT): What possible US engagements in Central America would be practical and needed to help stabilize the region?

Dr. Selee: People will stay in a well-run country. In El Salvador, for example, the US has people it can work with to stabilize the economy and the rule of law. In Guatemala and Honduras, government corruption and organized crime makes it more difficult to work together. The US and the international community could contribute most to Central America by supporting the rule of law, not the politicians. Unfortunately, the US Agency for International Development (US-AID) has cut its programs in the region.

Dr. Starr: The US made a big mistake when the Administration did not insist that the UN Anti-Corruption Task Force remain in Central America. Providing support for the rule of law in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is not only an intelligent response, it is the most essential thing the US can do to help, and is in our own national interest. The US and Mexico are one country economically. And the Mexican President is a reasonable ally with whom to work. The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.

The most essential and effective assistance the US can provide to Central America is economic aid and support for the rule of law.— Dr. Starr

Sen. Karen Fann (AZ): Some immigrants are asylum seekers, but there is a dark side and major concerns about border security: for example, when gang members enter the US and murder ranchers and border agents, or when drugs are smuggled into our towns. Trash is ruining our water ways and the ecology balance.

Ms. Kocherga: It is true that criminal elements and drugs also come across the border. But the wall is only a symbol. It will not stop them. People who live on the border want security, and we need to find common ground. A forced choice between a continuous wall vs no wall is not reasonable. We need a more informed discussion.

Dr. Selee: The US needs a tough but fair policy. Illegal immigration undermines the system and needs to be curtailed, but we also have to be fair to people who are fleeing for their lives or seeking to work at open jobs. We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US. US immigration policy should provide:

Enforcement – to be tough

Legal channels – to be fair

Protection – to shield people fleeing persecution.

We need legal channels by which people can come and work in the US.— Dr. Selee

Ms. Kocherga: Technologic improvements could also contribute to border security, as well as funding and training the CBP.

Sen. Stuart Adams (UT): The US birth rate is down and we need more workers, that is a key consideration for our State. But I have two questions: Do the cartels control the crossings and get the money? How can the immigration process be improved when we have a rule in place that says children can only be held for 20 days?

Dr. Selee: Cartels have some control over who can cross their territories, and smugglers must pay them off to get their “clients” across.

The 20-day rule was extended in 2015 to cover minors traveling with their families. Smugglers used this as a marketing ploy: “Bring your children for an extra $1000 and you’ll be able to benefit from the 20-day rule.” This buys them time to apply for asylum.

Solutions to improve the system could include putting border agents in charge of asylum claims to enable quick hearings, and using a case management model to move people through the system.

David Long (IceMiller LLP): What about children who are not really family members, perhaps being used in sex trafficking?

Ms. Kocherga: Sex trafficking is a serious risk for vulnerable children. The CBP has started DNA testing to prove child/parent relationships; however, many children are either coming to join families who are already established in the US or are accompanied by extended family, such as grandparents or close neighbors. If a child is admitted but the companion is denied admission, they often have no money left and no way to get back to their home country.

Dr. Selee: In the initial DNA tests, 0.5% of those tested were not related. But, in Central America, “families” are intergenerational and communal, including neighbors.

Currently, the largest immigration in the world is the 5 million Venezuelans who have fled into Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile.

Ms. Kocherga: In Central America, 15 year-old children are threatened that they must join a gang or be killed or have their family members killed. Many are forced to flee to avoid these threats.

Tom Finneran (Moderator): To get asylum, immigrants need to be able to prove that they have been threatened or experienced violence. How do they prove this?

Dr. Selee: Very few people have documents to prove their situation. How can you prove that your daughter was threatened with death if she did not become the gang leader’s sex slave?  The asylum concept first arose during the Holocaust and the Cold War, when immigrants were political refugees. Central American immigrants today are not fleeing the government but gangs, which sometimes are complicit with local police forces.

Ms. Kocherga: Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum. Currently, 15% of Guatemalans and 23% of El Salvadorans applicants are granted asylum.

Without an attorney, immigrants have no chance of getting asylum.— Ms. Kocherga

Senators Stuart Adams (UT), at left, and Martin Looney (CT), at right, enjoyed the time to connect in the informal setting of the Forum.