WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today spoke about his efforts to solve the ongoing crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The growing crisis on our southern border warrants immediate action,” Wicker said. “This problem requires real reform, not a $3.7 billion blank check for the Obama Administration. The President’s mishandling of this problem – which he has seen coming for months – is well documented. It is incumbent upon Congress to find a solution.
“We must summon the will to pass a responsible plan to end this crisis. One such plan, which I support, would reform current law to treat unaccompanied migrant children from Central America the same as those coming from Mexico or Canada. This change would expedite the legal process, either reuniting the children with their families or allowing them to remain in the United States if their circumstances warrant such action. This bill, authored by Senator John Cornyn, represents a good starting point.”
The bipartisan “Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act,” S. 2611, is sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas. Wicker is a cosponsor of the Cornyn bill. The House version of the bill is sponsored by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been detained at the border since October 2013. One report shows that more than 90,000 unaccompanied children are expected to enter the United States this year and more than 145,000 are expected to enter next year. The Department of Health and Human Services has stated that 20 percent of the children apprehended this year are 11 years old or younger.
Highlights of the “HUMANE Act” include:
- Improving the “William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act” (TVPRA) of 2008 to treat all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country.
- Keeping current protections for safe repatriation.
- Allowing unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within seven days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008.
- Authorizing up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose and keeping current law in place requiring HHS to make all efforts to secure pro-bono legal counsel for the child.
- Requiring immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in his or her claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country.
- Requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct FBI fingerprint background checks on any person taking custody of an unaccompanied alien child.
- Prohibiting the release of children to persons convicted of sex offenses and human trafficking.