Congressman Henry Cuellar (via Facebook)
In a bipartisan effort, two Texas lawmakers will try to amend a child sex trafficking law to make it easier to deport undocumented children found crossing the border.
Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-TX28, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, announced Monday that they will introduce the HUMANE Act (Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency).
According to a press release from Cuellar’s office, the legislation is designed to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which automatically grants undocumented children a court hearing and protections in case they are victims of sex trafficking. However, if those children are from Canada or Mexico, a provision in the law allows them to be deported (or to self deport) more quickly because those countries share a border with the U.S.
Cornyn and Cuellar contend that adding children from Central America – or any other country or region (they only mention Central America by name) – would create more equality under the law.
If it passes, all children who are caught in the United States without a legal basis to be here, would go before an immigration judge within a week of completing a Health and Human Services screening to make a claim to remain in the United States legally. Then a judge would have 72 hours to rule on that claim. The changes would also authorize up to 40 new immigration judges.
President Barack Obama actually came up with this same idea in early July, but backed down when more than 200 activist organizations wrote the White House an open letter decrying the proposal.
“We are deeply concerned that the administration will circumvent the protections of the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and remove the children apprehended at the border through a non-judicial process,” the letter states. “Instead of affording these children proper screening for trafficking and persecution, as well as the opportunity to receive fair and full consideration of their legal claims before an immigration judge, the administration appears to propose to quickly deport them, without access to legal council, following cursory screenings that have already proven entirely inadequate to identify genuine refugee claims among Mexican children.”
So Cuellar – who was slammed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for supporting the legislation – and Cornyn may have found a way to do what Obama wanted to, but couldn’t: deport the kiddos faster.