Nearly 100,000 unaccompanied minors are expected to travel to the U.S. this year, a surge that prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress for $3.7 billion two weeks ago to unplug a heavy case backlog and reinforce border patrol’s detention capacity. Many who want to beef up immigration enforcement say Obama’s policies incited the surge, and a few in Congress have proposed ways to expedite the children’s often lengthy hearing process.
But critics, such as L.A.’s Central American Resource Center (Carecen), say the high rates of gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are driving the kids to seek a better, safer life. They need a chance to prove that in U.S. immigration court, advocates said at a news conference in Pico-Union, where El Salvador’s most dangerous gangs were formed in the 1980s.
They contend children won’t have a chance to develop a coherent argument for asylum under a proposal, called the HUMANE Act, introduced by Texas congressmen Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar on July 15.
The proposal seeks a hearing for the unaccompanied migrant children within seven days of being screened by U.S. agents. It would modify the months- or years-long process laid out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, signed by President George Bush in 2008 that advocates say helps the migrant children.