Senate Democrats and progressive advocacy groups accused Sen. Lindsey Graham of breaking Judiciary Committee rules Thursday after the South Carolina Republican forced a vote to advance his "dangerous and immoral" anti-asylum legislation.
The bill, titled the Secure and Protect Act of 2019 (S.1494), is condemned by human rights organizations as a sweeping attack on asylum seekers and an effort to expand President Donald Trump's xenophobic deportation force.
Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, waived the panel's rules to force a vote on S.1494 before Democrats were permitted to speak on the legislation.
"The clerk will call the roll," Graham said as Democrats protested.
The South Carolina Republican ignored Democrats' objections and the legislation advanced out of the Judiciary Committee along party lines.
"Lindsey Graham is so desperate to attack asylum seekers that he just broke the rules of his own committee to advance his bill," tweeted progressive advocacy group Credo Action.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Graham's move "outrageous."
Lindsey Graham calls for a vote on an asylum bill before Judiciary Committee Democrats speak, via CSPAN.
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Graham: "The clerk will call the roll."
Feinstein: "You're breaking the rules of the Committee ... Mr. Chairman, this is unprecedented." pic.twitter.com/3nITYIQ6qE
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 1, 2019
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) denounced Graham's violation of the Senate rules and blasted the contents of his bill.
Leahy said the bill gives Trump everything he wants in his "political war on immigration."
"It allows for the indefinite detention of immigrant children. It ratchets up the cruelty against refugees seeking asylum," Leahy said. "It's as partisan and shortsighted as it gets. This is supposed to be the Senate Judiciary committee—not the Donald Trump committee."
In a statement on Thursday, progressive advocacy group Human Rights First echoed Leahy's assessment.
"The bill is an extremist attack on U.S. laws protecting children and refugees," said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First's refugee protection program. "The Trump administration has thus far decimated the U.S. resettlement and asylum systems through executive fiat, but this bill would essentially enact its cruel policies into law. Senator Graham has taken Stephen Miller's anti-asylum wish list and drafted a bill around it."
"If enacted," said Acer, "the provisions in this bill would deport children to trafficking and abuse, return refugees to persecution, strand them in highly dangerous countries, rush those who do seek asylum through rigged hearings, and prevent their release from immigration jails."