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Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act of 2021

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act of 2021: 

"H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act of 2021, is an important bill that will ensure that individuals who seek to lawfully enter the United States can contact a family member or an advisor if they are held for an extended period at a port of entry.

"Last September, the Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to explore President Trump’s Muslim ban, and 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.

"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 Protection, or 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.

"Some have argued that this bill would require CBP to expend significant resources.  But I believe they fundamentally misunderstand the substance of this bill.  To be clear, H.R. 1573 does not provide a “right” to counsel, nor does it impose any obligation on the federal government to build any additional space to accommodate counsel or hire new staff.

"The bill simply ensures that no one who presents themselves at a port of entry with valid travel documents is completely cut off from the world during the inspection process.

"It allows those seeking admission—including U.S. citizens—to communicate with counsel and other parties if they are subjected to secondary inspection that lasts longer than one hour.  The bill specifically contemplates that this could be accomplished telephonically.

"It is absurd to claim that providing these individuals with the opportunity to call their families or an attorney, and potentially receive their assistance during the inspection process will consume significant CBP resources.

"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, and I reserve the balance of my time."
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