Article: The Process Congress Wants to Use for Child Migrants is a Disaster

From Article:  The process Congress wants to use for child migrants is a disaster

On Monday, the White House said it was “likely” that migrant children facing the “credible threat” of death in their home countries would be allowed to stay in the United States, as the administration sought balance on the issue.

“These children will — and other immigrants who are attempting to enter the country without documentation — will go through the immigration process and that means their claims of asylum will be considered by an immigration judge and by asylum officials,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

That comes days after the administration offered tough language, saying most children crossing the border would be sent back.

The process for unaccompanied Central American children who cross the border — and for any other child who isn’t coming from Mexico or Canada — has been the same for decades. After being apprehended at the border and processed, they’re turned over to another Health and Human Services. (Prior to 2002, they were turned over to another branch of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now defunct.) After that, children are either released to a responsible relative or given long-term housing and care while working through immigration court proceedings. (See more about the process here.)

But that’s not how children are treated if they come from “contiguous countries”: Canada or Mexico. Before 2008, a child from Mexico apprehended at the border would just be turned right around and sent back — the same way an adult immigrant would be.

That meant there was no protection for children in danger back home. Worse, it meant that child victims of human trafficking — children who were being taken into the US not by choice, but to be exploited for labor or forced into prostitution— were getting shipped right back to the traffickers to try again.

In 2008, Congress passed a new law called the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act, or the TVPRA. One of the provisions of that law attempted to close the loophole for Mexican children. To do that, Congress came up with a new, relatively quick screening process for children from contiguous countries, designed to make sure no children were being sent back to danger.

The first of UNHCR’s  (United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees) confidential recommendations to the federal government: stop putting Border Patrol agents in charge of figuring out which kids get to stay. Instead, UNHCR recommends that all unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol should automatically be turned over to HHS custody — no matter where they come from

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