Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke today urged her colleagues in the House of Representatives not to eliminate basic legal protections for vulnerable children in attempting to resolve the humanitarian crisis at our border with Mexico, where more than 50,000 children from Central America are currently detained.
Most of the children are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, where hundreds of children have died as a result of gang violence in recent years. Under a law intended to prevent human trafficking, children who arrive at the border of the United States alone (from nations other than Canada or Mexico) are allowed to have a hearing with immigration enforcement authorities to apply for asylum. H.R. 5230, the supplemental appropriations package proposed by Republicans, would weaken -- and in some instances eliminate -- basis protections for child victims of trafficking, requiring unnecessarily quick screenings by Customs and Border Control agents and expedited immigration court proceedings without legal representation.
"I believe we have a responsibility to demonstrate compassion toward these children, who are entitled to due process of law in their immigration hearings. Many of these young women and young men might be eligible for asylum, available to anyone who has suffered persecution or has a legitimate fear of persecution. These children should have access to legal advice and an opportunity present their claims for asylum," said Congresswoman Clarke. "I am prepared to support President Obama's plan to improve security at the border and to expedite the processing of the unaccompanied children before immigration judges, with the protections that our Constitution requires."