Two Texas Lawmakers Propose Bill To Handle Surge Of Child Migrants

By Kate Sheehy
July 15, 2014

Two Texas lawmakers are aiming to pass a bill that would expedite the deportation of Central American children who have entered the United States illegally and alone.

Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar want to amend a 2008 law that is meant to deter human trafficking. It protects unaccompanied minors from immediate deportation in order to attend a hearing, if they’re from a country that doesn’t border the U.S.

Critics say the proposed bill titled, the “Humane Act,” is anything but. Wendy Young is president of Kids In Need of Defense, which provides free legal representation for children facing the U.S. immigration system.

“These are children first and foremost, and to expect them to go through expedited proceedings and in any way be able to articulate their fear of return to their home country, is just ridiculous and fundamentally unfair,” Young said.

Frank Sharry of the immigration advocacy organization America’s Voice, said the Obama administration has made a mistake in signaling their flexibility on a change of law. Sharry said while there are pull factors for children migrating from Central America, the Republican agenda has sought to blame the surge entirely on Obama’s soft immigration policies. He said the Cornyn-Cuellar bill does not consider the violent conditions these kids are fleeing. 

“What are we going to say when the first report comes back that someone who has gone through a shotgun proceeding is murdered upon return to their community in Honduras or El Salvador and Guatemala?” he said.

Sharry and other immigration advocates said Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding can and should be used to streamline an overwhelmed immigration system without compromising fair treatment of minors.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake are working on similar legislation that would also increase visas so children could apply for refugee status in their home countries.