WASHINGTON, D.C. –The congressional working group assembled by House Speaker John Boehner to advise about the ongoing crisis at the border is looking to revise a 2008 trafficking law which makes removing Central American unaccompanied minors difficult.
“The working group is saying we have to look at that, at that law, and so that will be part of our report” the chairwoman of the group, Texas Republican Rep. Kay Granger, told reporters Wednesday evening.
The working group, she noted has been meeting “almost everyday” and stressed the group is looking largely at policies, not Obama’s $3.7 billion supplemental appropriations request.
In a statement, Granger elaborated on the working group’s considerations, saying that the group believes the unaccompanied minors must be returned to their home countries.
“We agree with the President that they must be returned to their home countries in the most humane way possible and that will require a revision of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act,” she explained.
The 2008 trafficking law requires unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries to be granted immigration hearings, be placed in the care of Health and Human Services and then placed in unrestrictive settings such as with a family member — keeping them from being hastily returned to their home countries.
Granger further placed blame for the crisis on the shoulders of the current administration.
“[T]he President must act to deter parents from encouraging their children to make this horrific and perilous journey based on the hope that they will be able to stay in the United States,” she said. “The policies of the current Administration have created the crisis we are currently facing at our southern border and it will take Presidential action to solve it.”
She added that as the FY 2015 appropriations process moves forward, Customs and Border Protection must be a consideration.
“The substantial increase of family units and unaccompanied children crossing the border has created an enormous strain on Customs and Border Protection as well as the border states and communities. It is critical we ensure that the Border Patrol is able to focus on protecting the borders of the United States,” she said.
Boehner told reporters Thursday that he agrees the 2008 trafficking law needs to be revised.
“I do and I think the president agrees with it as well,” he said, adding that he is letting the working group “work out the details.”
In addition to Granger’s working group, Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar told reporters Wednesday that he is planning to introduce a bill to tweak the 2008 law, to treat unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries the same as those from Canada or Mexico.
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended illegally entering the U.S. The vast majority have been from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.