Legislation set to be introduced Tuesday aims to deal with the surge of illegal immigration at the southern border by expediting the processing of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors from Central America.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) say their bill, the “Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act,” would help alleviate the crisis at the border by treating all unaccompanied minors in the same manner.
“Our proposal would improve the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008, treating all unaccompanied minors equally and ensuring Due Process under the law in a timely, fair manner,” Cornyn said Monday.
The 2008 law placed special protections on unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries that has made removing them difficult.
Cuellar called on the House and Senate to “act quickly” on their legislation.
“The border region in Texas has been overwhelmed over the past few months by a deluge of undocumented immigrants from Central America,” he said. “This legislation strengthens current law protecting unaccompanied children and responds to the crisis while supporting the men and women of Border Patrol.”
Since October more then 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained illegally crossing the southern border into the U.S. The vast majority of the illegal immigration has been from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
In an summary, the legislators’ offices laid out what the bill would accomplish, including tweaking the 2008 law to treat all unaccompanied minors equally, allowing for “voluntary reunification with family” and keeping current repatriation “protections”.
Further their bill would allow unaccompanied illegal immigrant children who are seeking asylum to appear before an immigration judge within 7 days of going through their Health and Human Services “screening” under the 2008 trafficking law. It would authorize up to 40 new immigration judges and require HHS to “make all efforts to secure pro-bono legal counsel for the child.”
The bill would also require a decision on the claims to be made within 72 hours — should the child’s claim be successful they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. If they are unsuccessful they would be removed and reunited with family in their home countries.
The legislation would also require HHS to house the illegal immigrant children while they await their immigration hearings, would require background checks for sponsors, and a plan for “operational control” of the southern border.