The increasing number of unaccompanied children at the border has grave humanitarian dimensions and potential for human tragedy. Young people, many fearing rising gang violence, are coming here in numbers larger than in the recent past. However, this increase, while challenging, does not pose an immigration crisis, as the media would have you believe.
The more than 50,000 children detained at the border over the last nine months represent roughly 15 percent of all undocumented immigrants detained in the same period. Yet, they are painted in the media as threatening to overwhelm our immigration system. Many conservatives are calling for the instant deportations of these children and for changing the laws to remove any due process protections that they may have.
Many in Congress are calling for the repeal or substantial modification of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. This law includes provisions designed to provide protections for children who are victims of sex trafficking by allowing children to meet with counsellors and to tell a judge whether they were trafficked here. This was not a politically charged bill when it was passed. It was supported by Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the George W. Bush Administration. Now politics have been injected into the act in the run up to this year’s November elections.
The increase in the number of children arriving at the border should be dealt with through an appropriation of money to hire more adjudicators to provide the due process the children are entitled to under the anti-sex trafficking law. As interviews and court dates speed up, the number of new arrivals will drop, without compromising our commitment to stopping this horrible form of human slavery.