This legislation would not change the process for unaccompanied immigrant children who were victims of human trafficking, or fear persecution if they were to return to their country of origin.
Immigration officers are now required to return unaccompanied immigrant children to their country of origin or last habitual residence. This authority had previously been discretionary.
Before placing a child with an individual, HHS would be required to give DHS the individual’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, residence location, and immigration status (if known). DHS would be required to investigate the immigration status of the individual with whom the child is placed, and if they are in the U.S. illegally removal proceedings would be initiated. These requirements would apply to any unauthorized child apprehended on or after June 15, 2012.
During the 2014 fiscal year there were 68,434 unaccompanied children who entered the U.S. illegally. As of late 2014, over 43,000 of those children were placed with sponsors, usually relatives, where they would remain until their cases are processed. Most of these children come from conflict-ridden areas of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Children from Mexico also make up a considerable percentage of the group. The flood of people — a 945 percent increase from 2011 — caught the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) off guard, forcing the construction of three temporary shelters in California, Oklahoma and Texas military bases.
In opposition to this bill, the U.S. Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Gradye Parsons wrote to Congress saying:
“United States immigration law does not require adults who appear at our border with humanitarian claims to prepare a hearing within fourteen days. We do not have a mandate to hold them in custody while they await their hearing. Why, then, would we require children, who have been traumatized, who may not understand English or be able to read in any language, to be held to a more onerous process? Children deserve special consideration and protection — not less consideration and protection.”
On the other hand, Sponsoring Rep. John Carter (R-TX) believes his bill
will protect this vulnerable population of children from human traffickers:
“For far too long drug smugglers have continually used loopholes in our nation’s immigration law to make billions, all while preying upon the weakest in our society... Tens of thousands of juveniles marched across the border and into our cities, all at the taxpayer’s expense. The great state of Texas has felt this burden, probably more than any other state. This Administration needs to stop ignoring the obvious problem, burdening the American public and putting innocent lives at risk.”
Sponsoring Rep. John Carter (R-TX) Press Release
Presbyterian Church USA (Opposed)
Washington Post (Context)
Summary by Eric Revell + Téa Jiang