EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tommy Tuberville introduced his inaugural legislation Thursday to tackle the border surge of migrants just as the new Alabama senator is traveling to visit the U.S.-Mexico border to see the problems firsthand.
Tuberville, R-Ala., released his new legislation first to Fox News Thursday. He was traveling to McAllen, Texas, with fellow GOP senators to meet with border officials inundated by the influx of migrants seeking entry into the United States.
Tuberville’s bill aims to tackle one consequence of the surge of migrants: Border patrol agents have begun to release illegal border crossers who claim asylum without issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA). That means they leave federal custody without scheduling a court date for a hearing.
Tuberville’s legislation would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a Notice to Appear to any migrant who illegally enters into the United States. The immigration court dates are the first step to deportation proceedings, though migrants can contest their removal.
“Our facilities at the border are bursting at the seams, and because we’ve simply run out of space, we’re releasing illegal migrants into our country with no real accountability, or date to appear in court,” Tuberville said in a statement announcing his bill. “At best, it hurts those who come to this country actually looking to plead their asylum case. At worst, it’s giving free rein into our country for breaking the law.”
Tuberville cast blame on President Biden for the problems at the border and said enforcement of court dates is needed for accountability.
“President Biden dismantled the successful policies President Trump put in place, but this bill will help restore integrity in our immigration system,” Tuberville said.
The unprecedented move places the responsibility of seeking an asylum hearing on the migrants through Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or legal assistance.
Multiple Border Patrol agents confirmed the new process to Fox News, revealing that they have been directed to use prosecutorial discretion to forgo the hours-long process of paperwork required to issue an NTA amid the surge of migrants at the border.
Instead, migrants are registered into the system with biometrical data taken and then largely released into the public, in one instance, at a bus station in McAllen, Texas. This process does not apply to unaccompanied children.
A senior source with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told Fox News on Saturday that officials were considering the controversial move because the ongoing crisis on the border has “become so dire that BP [Border Protection] has no choice but to release people nearly immediately after apprehension because there is no space to hold people even to do necessary NTA paperwork.”
Tuberville’s bill makes clear that if a migrant fails to show for a court date, any protections they were granted — such as deferred action, parole or a work visa — would be terminated.
Tuberville, a former football coach elected in November, is making his first trip to the southern border as a senator later Thursday and will stay through Friday. Texas GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn organized the Republican delegation trip. Cruz is among the original co-sponsors of Tuberville’s bill.
Fox News’ Griff Jenkins, Yael Halon and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.