H.R. 1573, Access to Counsel Act of 2021
H.R. 1573 would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow individuals subject to secondary immigration inspection at U.S. ports of entry to consult with an attorney, accredited immigration official, family member, or immigration sponsor during the inspection. The bill also would require DHS to allow the counsel or interested party to appear in person at the inspection site to the greatest extent practicable. (A secondary immigration inspection is conducted by customs officers if individuals entering the United States do not have the required documents for entry or if their information cannot be initially verified.)
Approximately 10.2 million individuals were referred to secondary inspection at the United States’ 328 ports of entry in 2019. Using information provided by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), CBO expects that roughly 8 percent of referrals would request access to counsel each year. Immigration at ports of entry has declined significantly in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic; CBO assumes referrals would return to pre-pandemic levels beginning in mid-2022.
CBO estimates that CBP would need two new full-time officers on average at each port of entry to provide security and transportation services for individuals requesting access to counsel. (The number of CBP officers stationed at each port of entry ranges from several individuals to up to several thousands, and the number of additional officers needed at each port under the bill would vary by the size of the port.) CBO estimates that salaries, benefits, and overtime for the additional staff would cost about $700 million over the 2021-2026 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.