In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent helps migrants out of a van at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Las Cruces, N.M. The U.S. Border Patrol agents dropped off asylum-seeking migrants in New Mexico's second most populous city for the second day in a row Saturday, April 13, 2019 prompting Las Cruces city officials to appeal for donations of food and personal hygiene items. The migrants were being temporarily housed at a homeless shelter, a city recreation center and a campus of social service agencies. (Blake Gumprecht/The Las Cruces Sun News via AP)

Bipartisan panel recommends changes to migrant processing

April 16, 2019 - 4:05 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan panel is calling for significant changes to how the federal government deals with the surge of migrant families that officials say is overwhelming the southern border.

In an emergency draft report unveiled Tuesday, the Homeland Security Advisory Council called on the Trump administration to immediately establish three to four regional processing centers along the southwest border with Mexico.

Migrant families would be housed and receive medical care at the processing centers, as well as undergo interviews with immigration officials to determine whether they have "credible fear" of returning to their home countries and can have their asylum cases heard by immigration judges.

The panel also wants to see a similar processing center established in Guatemala, near that country's border with Mexico, so migrants can make asylum claims without having to make the dangerous trek to the U.S.

The advisory panel includes immigration experts, lawyers, former federal officials and a medical doctor.

The group also is calling for changes to a court settlement to allow authorities to hold minor children who enter the country with guardians for longer than 20 days and make other changes that would allow the government to send more minors back home to their parents.

"At the end of the day, if these recommendations are undertaken swiftly in the next 45 days, the panel believes that you will see a sharp decline in the crisis at our border," said Karen Tandy, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration who serves on the advisory council.

The report will be sent to the acting secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, for consideration.

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