Sheila Gilbert, National President of SVDP USA, urges Protect Unaccompanied Children Seeking Refuge
Please urge your Senators and Representative to oppose legislative efforts to strip protections away from unaccompanied children who are fleeing from violence in Central America and seeking refuge in the United States.
In response to President Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency funding request, two Texas lawmakers Sen. John Cornyn (R) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) are pushing the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act to make the federal government deport Central American children. The bill would roll back the key protections provided by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, which prohibits the immediate deportation of Central American children who are threatened by violence in their home countries.
Preserving those protections is important, because children do not always understand the process and are frequently unable to articulate their fear within the 48 hours Border Patrol agents have to do the screening. These interviews often result in quick generic answers and lack important information that would make the children eligible for Special Juvenile Immigration Status.
Under the Cornyn-Cuellar proposal, immigration judges would have to adjudicate cases within seven days after border agents turn children over the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adding to the current immigration court backlog of about 375,000 deportation cases. This would make access to counsel virtually impossible and prioritize speed over accuracy in assessing the viability of these kids’ claims for special status.
Besides, opposing any attempt to strip the immigrant children of existing protection, we believe that sufficient funding for the care of vulnerable children is essential, ensuring due process rights and addressing the root causes of their plight, particularly violence in their home countries.
Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, June 25, said that the large number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border represents a “test of our moral character.” “We must not fail this test,” he added. “We must not turn our back on them.”
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National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul