DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who crossed into Texas are overwhelming Border Patrol Agents.
Bill Holston heads the Human Rights Initiative in Dallas, which helps the children gain legal status in the U.S. “These are traumatized kids. They’ve made an arduous journey from Central America.”
But immigration courts are backlogged, which means it often takes years before the children can go before a judge and find out whether they can stay or must leave.
Under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico are allowed to stay in the U.S. until a judge can determine their status. On Wednesday, the House Republican Working Group, chaired by Fort Worth Congresswoman Kay Granger, announced they want to change the law.
It would treat children from Central America, just like they do children from Mexico — sending them home. That means, the youngsters from Central America would have an expedited court hearing, and find out in seven days whether a judge would allow them to stay in the U.S. or be deported.
But Holston says the kids will be shortchanged. “They are in no position to be interviewed by somebody to be determined what their legal rights are.”
Congresswoman Granger though disagrees. “It doesn’t take seven days to go through the questions and the background anymore that it takes five years to do that.”
Tea Party conservative Ken Emmanuelson of Dallas also believes the recommendation is a good idea. “That would be a step forward. That’s one of the few specifics that would actually work on this list. Whether the Senate would pass that, whether the Obama administration passes that, we don’t know.”
Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey, whose district includes Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington said, “Republicans are working to undermine critical protections afforded to women and children…”
Rep. Veasey also released the following statement:
“For over a year, House Republican leadership and Speaker Boehner have refused to allow a vote on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation overwhelmingly passed by the Senate. Their obstruction has had serious consequences for our nation. The humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children at the southern border demands compassionate and thoughtful solutions. Yet instead of acting to provide urgently needed resources to address this humanitarian crisis as President Obama has requested, Republicans are working to undermine critical protections afforded to women and children in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, a bipartisan bill signed by President George W. Bush. I encourage Speaker Boehner to bring H.R. 15 to the floor, an immigration bill that offers resources for international and administrative cooperation, encompasses border security and clearly defines what it would take to immigrate here legally. It’s time for Republicans to stop playing politics and start addressing this situation in a serious and thoughtful manner worthy of our nation and these children.”
Changing the 2008 is among the dozen recommendations announced by House Republicans.
Others include hiring more immigration judges to relieve the backlogged courts, deploying the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border, and strengthening penalties for human smugglers.
Congresswoman Granger says she’s hoping they can file a bill and pass it before Congress begins its August recess. “We can do it. It’s that important, and I’ve said to everyone that it’s important that we not leave town til we’ve taken care of this. So it’s just a matter of doubling up on your work.”
When asked if Senate Democrats would approve a House bill, the Congresswoman said, “It’s unlikely.”
Earlier this month, President Obama proposed a $3.7 billion emergency supplemental bill that he says would help the government deal with the crisis.
Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas said, “I think we should fund the activities of agencies as needed to meet the President’s full request…”
Johnson also released the following statement:
“I think we should fund the activities of agencies as needed to meet the President’s full request. We must make sure we allocate enough money to all the departments that will be coordinating to solve this problem. We must fully fund the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dept. of Justice, the Dept. of Homeland Security, and the Dept. of State as requested. They each pay a pivotal role in handling this humanitarian crisis. I am working to get the funds that were requested. If the majority is not willing to fully fund the activities of these agencies to address this issue, the problem cannot be properly addressed.”
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