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Trafficking law helps spur flow of immigrant children to US

Posted Jul 8, 2014 7:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Protections for unaccompanied immigrant children in a sex-trafficking law are partly responsible for the surge in children crossing the border alone, according to the Obama administration.

The law, backed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, adds procedural protections for children entering the country alone who are not from Mexico or Canada, the New York Times reports. Passed during the last days of the George W. Bush administration, the law “is at the root of the potentially calamitous flow of unaccompanied minors to the nation’s southern border,” the story says. Since October, about 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the southern border.

The law provides for immigration hearings for these minors, along with the chance to consult an advocate. The Department of Health and Human Services has responsibility for the children, and it must place them in the least restrictive setting based on their best interests. HHS is also required to explore reuniting the children with family members.

The law is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is among the lawmakers suggesting that the administration has the flexibility under the law to “accelerate the judicial process” for the children during times of crisis.

Some Republicans claim the president is deflecting blame for the crisis by pointing to the law.

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