Congress must reject the Secure and Succeed Act in favor of a 'clean' Dreamers bill
© Getty Images
The Dreamers—immigrants brought to the United States as children—have become the quintessential political football. President TrumpDonald John TrumpCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Five takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation MORE opposes not merely a “clean bill” to provide Dreamers legal status but also a bipartisan compromise bill that would protect them while providing money for his border wall.

The president will support a bill to protect the Dreamers, he says, if and only if it includes all his “border security” demands. Instead of protecting Americans, however, his demands would harm asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants.


Now a coalition of Republican senators led by Chuck Grassley (Iowa) has introduced what is sure to be one of many bills put forward based on President Trump’s framework.

The Secure and Succeed Act is prime example of how the administration is pitting Dreamers against refugee children and families that the United States is obligated to protect.
With this bill, President Trump and his allies in the Senate are saying: we will agree to help one group of immigrants only if you agree to punish other immigrants, including many who are fleeing persecution and violence.
President Trump and the bill’s sponsors claim it would protect Americans. Yet current law contains numerous safeguards that exclude people who actually pose a threat to this country. The bill would, in fact, victimize innocent people who already face numerous barriers in their effort to seek protection.
Under President Trump, immigration authorities are increasingly turning away asylum seekers at the border in violation of both U.S. and international law. They are also stepping up criminal prosecutions for illegal entry. That’s right, the administration is charging families who are legally seeking protection from violence and persecution with a crime for entering the country.
The Secure and Succeed Act would massively compound this flawed and cruel approach. It would authorize funds to increase the number of criminal prosecutions for unlawful border crossing by 80 percent over the number the previous year. Such prosecutions often tear apart families and punish asylum seekers.
The legislation would also expand mandatory detention for immigrants regardless of their claims for humanitarian protection. It would also give the Department of Homeland Security more power to detain immigrants and raise the minimum bond amount far out of reach of most asylum seekers, forcing them to remain in detention.
Immigrants who would be harmed by this bill include thousands of children. Contrary to the president’s claims, unaccompanied children who enter the country aren’t exploiting “loopholes.” They’re entering under the limited protections in the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008, which Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed to bolster the government’s ability to identify trafficking victims.
Several proposals in Congress, including the Secure and Succeed Act, would weaken these protections. They would decrease the capacity of the government to identify and protect child victims of trafficking and other dangers while subjecting them to expedited screening and more restrictive detention.
And any proposal to mark Mexico, with record-high homicide rates and well-reported threats to migrants, as safe for refugees is a thinly veiled attempt to block those fleeing horrific violence in Central America from legally accessing asylum. 
Even in terms of protecting Dreamers, the Secure and Succeed Act falls short. Restrictive language indicates it would deny thousands a path to citizenship.
The president, along with the supporters of the bill crafted from his demands, are using the debate over the Dreamers to pursue extreme steps that would undermine our country’s commitment to helping people fleeing persecution. Congress should see this bill for the sham that it is and reject it in favor of a “clean” Dreamers bill.
More broadly, Congress should reject any proposal that would punish asylum seekers or abolish the limited protections that prevent their return to persecution, trafficking, and other forms of violence. In other words, they should adhere to American ideals.  
Quigley is Human Rights First’s advocacy strategist for refugee protection.