Tucked inside the new spending bill is a new deportation amnesty that security experts fear will lead to a new surge of illegal immigrant children smuggled to the border.
The provision in Section 224 of the Homeland Security portion of the bill, creates a loophole in immigration enforcement, giving a safe harbor to illegal immigrants who say they’re willing to take Unaccompanied Alien Children into their homes.
Under the provision, the government is banned from detaining or deporting those illegal immigrants.
“It puts hundreds of thousands of people off limits for deportation,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies.
The provision, sought by Democrats, grows out of the increasingly thorny situation of the tens of thousands of children whose parents pay to smuggle them into the U.S. each year to reunite with their families.
Under existing policy, the children are usually processed and quickly released to sponsors — often the very parents or relatives who paid to smuggle them and, in most cases, who are in the U.S. illegally themselves.
SEE ALSO: Spending bill details released ahead of shutdown deadline
Under the Trump administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been conducting legal status checks on households where children were to be placed and had begun to try to deport some people found to be here illegally.
The new provision would ban that.
The new provision applies not only to households that already sponsor a child — more than 200,000 children have already been released into the U.S. — but also to “prospective” households, meaning those that might take a child in eventually.
“If you don’t have a kid here yet to protect you from deportation this is a huge incentive to hire a criminal smuggler to bring your child here,” Ms. Vaughan said.
It’s not clear who qualifies as a “prospective family,” but Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager at NumbersUSA, predicted liberal-leaning judges will create an expansive protection for illegal immigrants.
“It doesn’t define it, so it means whatever the 9th Circuit says it means,” she said.
Also tucked into the bill in a last-minute addition added early Thursday morning is permission to double the number of temporary seasonal guest-workers.
That provision caused Ms. Jenks’s organization, which advocates for stricter immigration limits, to oppose the legislation.