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Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 5581, the Access to Counsel Act of 2020

Washington, July 22, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.R. 5581, the Access to Counsel Act of 2020: 

"Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I rise in strong support of H.R. 5581, the Access to Counsel Act of 2020.

"Last September, the Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to explore the Muslim ban, including the chaos that unfolded at airports across the country when it was first announced.

"I can personally attest to that chaos, based on my experience at JFK Airport immediately after the ban was implemented.  Refugees, individuals with valid visas, and even lawful permanent residents were detained for hours and prevented from speaking with attorneys.  Some even had their phones taken away and were unable to call their family members.

"Although the issue grabbed the headlines then, it is unfortunately a problem that occurs daily.  Due to the complexity of U.S. immigration law, and the fact-intensive nature of questions regarding admissibility, it is not uncommon for some people to spend hours undergoing inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). 

"During this time, individuals are often prevented from communicating with those on the outside.  And if the individual is lucky enough to have a lawyer, CBP will often refuse to speak with them, even if they can provide critical information or correct a legal error.

"Moreover, serious consequences can result from being refused admission.  For example, an individual who is given an 'expedited removal' order is barred from returning to the United States for 5 years.

"H.R. 5581 will ensure that no one who presents themselves at a port of entry with valid travel documents is completely cut off from the world during inspection.  H.R. 5581 allows such individuals—including U.S. citizens—to communicate with counsel and other parties if they are subjected to secondary inspection that lasts longer than one hour. 

"To be clear, this bill does not provide a 'right' to counsel, nor does it impose any obligation on the federal government to pay for or otherwise provide counsel to individuals during CBP inspection proceedings.  This is confirmed by the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that H.R. 5581 would have no effect on direct spending or revenues. 

"I would like to extend a special thanks to my colleague, Representative Jayapal for her leadership on this issue and for championing this bill.  I encourage my colleagues to support it."
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