WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats to craft a limited immigration bill in short order that would change asylum laws and expand detention facilities in an attempt to address the surge of migrants arriving at the southwest border.
Speaking with a sense of urgency, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at a news conference Wednesday that he will introduce a bill later this week that would require immigrants to apply for U.S. asylum in their home countries instead of at the border, hire more immigration judges to reduce the case backlog that already exceeds 800,000 and modify a court settlement that currently limits the amount of time migrant children can be held in detention while they await adjudication.
Graham said he is willing to work with Democrats to get the legislation passed and that the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing and then a markup on the bill in the next work period in early June to advance the legislation out of the committee.
"I'm trying to solve a problem that is just getting completely out of hand," Graham said. "And let me tell you, Democrats were wrong to say it was a manufactured crisis. But I don't think the president or his team can afford to just not sit down with Democrats. This is a real problem that's going to require all hands on deck," he said.
"I am urging the president to lead us to a solution and I am urging our Democratic colleagues in spite of your dislike and displeasure with this president to find a solution to this problem quickly," Graham said.
Graham told reporters that just building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border will not stop migrants from trying to take advantage of current immigration laws.
Graham's announcement comes a day after President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to discuss his latest immigration proposal.
Graham said Kushner's plan is more long-term, and focuses on border security and shifting the U.S. legal immigration system to a more merit-based system.
"The White House plan is not designed to become law. My bill is designed to become law," Graham said. "The White House plan is trying to reunite the Republican Party around border security and merit-based immigration. I'm trying to get some relief to our Border Patrol agents."
The White House has already sent Congress a request to provide $4.5 billion in supplemental funding to address the surge of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, but the administration wanted the supplemental tied into a disaster relief bill moving through the Senate. Democrats have shown some flexibility on the border supplemental, but they want a clearer sense of exactly how the money would be spent.