U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, talks with community members during a public forum at the Talbot County Community Center.

EASTON — U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, outlined several issues regarding immigration while speaking at a community forum hosted by the Talbot County Republican Central Committee in Easton.

With a backlog of 700,000 asylum cases, Harris said he is frustrated because the Democrats hinder President Donald Trump’s ability to solve the immigration crisis.

Harris said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection secretary testified before Congress in May about the growing funding crisis, which takes care of families and children seeking entry into the United States.

“There are so many, they are going to run out of their fiscal year money probably in June,” Harris said Friday, May 24. “Once that happens, the way the law is written, they may or may not have the ability to take money from one pot in the Homeland Security or Health and Human Services and move it to another.

Harris said Customs and Border Protection asked Congress for $2.6 billion. He said they came back and asked for $1.3 billion.

“We tried to do it on the floor of the House, and every single Democrat voted against giving that money,” he said. “There will be a crisis when that money runs out. The law says you can’t just take money from one pot and put it into another pot. I believe this is going to be a manufactured crisis. This will get much worse before it gets better.”

Harris said another issue comes with the Trump Administration not being allowed to spend any money on border security infrastructure such as cameras and lights.

“I’m thinking as a doctor, we are in the middle of an opioid crisis,” he said. “The vast majority of fentanyl now comes across our southern border. If I had a pound of fentanyl, it probably has a street value somewhere between $1 million and $5 million.

“It will fit in your pocket,” he said. “You don’t have to fill up a truck with it. You can walk across the border in an unsecured border point and become a millionaire in the United States.

Harris said Democrats just do not care.

“This is fighting against the president,” he said. “I’m frustrated by that. The common sense person would say you got to take care of those children, and you have to have funding for the rest of the fiscal year.”

As for immigration as a whole, Harris believes changing asylum laws will be a major benefit for the country.

“The problem now is the vast majority of people who cross the border request asylum,” he said. “Technically, if you come into the country and request asylum, you are not here illegally. You are given the opportunity for an asylum hearing.”

Harris said when President Trump took office, the majority of people crossing the border were not seeking asylum, and the amount of people crossing the border went down.

“When the Washington discussion began about not allowing the president to spend money to maintain border integrity and took no action on changing asylum laws, the numbers of people requesting asylum dramatically increased,” he said. “If they say the magic words, customs and border protection has to give them an adjudication date.

“The reason why the president decided that we should prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally is because the first time you cross the border illegally it is a misdemeanor,” he said. “The second time you cross the border illegally it is a felony. If it is a felony, you can immediately deport the person. There is actually a reason to take everyone that crosses the border illegally and prosecute them immediately. But if they declare asylum, they do have to have an asylum hearing before they would be sent back so it gets very complicated.

“The moral of the story is, once we got behind on the asylum hearings — we now have a 700,000 case backlog — you literally were given an adjudication date two to three years into the future, and the policy was you actually got a work permit,” he said.

Harris said 80 to 90 percent of the people requesting asylum are deported because their asylum claim is not valid.

But while people seeking asylum wait for two to three years for their adjudication date Harris said they discharged into the interior of the country.

“The majority of the House has said there is no way they are going to consider a change in the asylum laws,” he said. “This will continue to be very bad until we get a change in the asylum laws.”

Harris said President Trump moved to have the last person requesting asylum to have the most recent adjudication date.

“The president believes, that if this works, we will have removed the incentive to come in with the belief you are going to be sent into the interior for three years with a work permit,” he said. “That may work. That is the only thing the president can do without Congress acting on asylum laws.”

Follow Caroline/Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_StarDem.

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