“This humanitarian crisis is not driven by policies of the Obama administration but by children being forcibly displaced seeking to be with their parents and they are also running from the viciousness of human smuggling and trafficking. The Justice for Children Act of 2014 will provide additional resources to deal with this crisis,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Senior Member of the House Homeland Security Committee and Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and Founder and Co-Chair of the House Children’s Caucus, released the following statement after introducing the ‘Justice for Children Now Act of 2014’.
”Regardless of root causes of the current situation with unaccompanied children coming across our borders, there is a humanitarian crisis occurring along the southern border and addressing it with real solutions must be our first priority. Politicizing the matter will do nothing to solve the crisis. That is why I have introduced the ‘Justice for Children Now Act of 2014’ which will add an additional 70 Immigration Judges who can be hired IMMEDIATEDLY to the office of Executive Office of Immigration Review. I have been joined as original co-sponsors by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep Ruben Hinojosa and Rep. Filemon Vela.”
Policy toward unaccompanied children is generally unchanged from recent administrations. In fact, it was President George W. Bush who signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA; P.L. 110-457), which provides many of the protections provided to unaccompanied children under current law.
“Any misconception that the Obama Administration’s policy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation applies to arriving unaccompanied children is just that – a misconception,” she said. “The Administration is currently expanding its efforts to increase public awareness in Mexico and Central America about the fact that unaccompanied children are not eligible for such immigration benefits or for legal status in the U.S. Democrats support these public awareness efforts.”
Looking out to the long-term, we need to do more to turn the tide on this crisis by, among other things, fostering greater stability among our neighbors and dissuading families from taking such action, according to Jackson.
We must also establish:
1. More processing centers that are also more humane.
2. We must also engage groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Houston Based Children at Risk.
3. We also need to enhance the legal resources for these children increase the number of immigration judges (which The Justice for Children Now Act of 2014 does).
”Unaccompanied children are not evading the Border Patrol,” she said. “To the contrary, these children are overwhelmingly apprehended immediately upon crossing into the U.S., contradicting the notion that the increased flow of unaccompanied children means our borders are somehow broken or porous. While the influx of unaccompanied children has challenged Border Patrol’s capacity to respond, its agents have risen to that challenge.”
In fact, the agency’s effectiveness rate has actually improved due to additional personnel and resources being directed to the border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Violence and poor economic conditions in the children’s home countries are a primary cause for the increase in unaccompanied children crossing the border. The three countries with the highest number of unaccompanied children apprehended in the U.S. – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala – also have among the highest murder rates in the world.
We must send aid to these countries to confront some of their problems there to prevent these unaccompanied children from crossing our borders, Jackson said
Earlier this year, a United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees survey of children from Mexico and Central America who arrived in the United States illegally found that no less than 58 percent of the children interviewed were displaced by violence. .
”In the absence of immigration reform that would allow for orderly, lawful migration, some families are acting on a normal desire to be reunited with relatives living in the U.S. There are individuals lawfully present in the U.S. but have no legal means to petition for their family members under the existing system. This is why we need to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform now and pass the ‘Justice for Children Now Act of 2014’ is an important bill. I fully support the Federal response to the ongoing crisis and this Bill I have introduced is a step forward in identifying ways to curb the flow of unaccompanied children to the U.S., including increasing awareness about the very serious dangers of the journey.”