EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A border lawmaker has introduced a bill to take asylum-seekers out of the custody of immigration enforcement agencies as soon as possible and place them in processing centers run by administrators and refugee specialists.

The Reimagining Asylum Processing Act also would ban credible fear interviews – a critical first step for migrants to establish an asylum claim – from being conducted while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The new Humanitarian Processing Centers would limit the presence of CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on the premises. They would be run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service staff.

“For decades, our nation’s response to increased migration has relied on militarizing border communities like El Paso instead of addressing root causes and improving the legal systems and regulations to which we subject asylum seekers,” said bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso.

She said that approach has been “costly and ineffective,” resulting in a backlog of asylum cases, cluttered immigration courts and allegedly subjecting migrants to due process violations.

“This is unacceptable and must change,” she said. “This legislation is one component of what needs to be a multi-faceted approach to ensuring we have a functioning immigration system, effective management at the southern border, and security without sacrificing our humanity as a nation.”

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

She said the proposal will allow for better oversight over the asylum process.

The bill:

  • Creates Humanitarian Processing Centers (HPCs) that will provide legal counsel and other resources to prepare for a credible fear interview, a medical screening, interpreters, and referrals to community-based case management programs.
  • Mandates that individuals apprehended at or between ports of entry be transferred to these centers and provides for a 72-hour rest period at these centers prior to the credible fear interview.
  • Prohibits Credible Fear Interviews (CFIs) from being conducted while an asylum seeker is in CBP custody and limits the presence of CBP and ICE personnel at the Humanitarian Processing Centers.
  • Requires that asylum officers consider if a migrant qualifies for other immigration benefits such as protection under the UN convention against torture, T or U visas for victims of human trafficking and other serious crimes, and family reunification.
  • It also limits the days migrants can be held at an HPC, and mandates alternatives to detention – currently, 15 days, after which alternatives to detention must be considered.

Escobar said the bill builds on previous efforts to fix the U.S. immigration system and bolster the economy.

You can read the full version of her bill here.