Congressman Smith released the following statement regarding unaccompanied minors and the humanitarian crisis at the border:
"In 2008, with bipartisan support, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed a bill to protect minors who arrived in our country after fleeing human trafficking or other kinds of abuse or violence. More than anything else the recent increase in minors coming across our border makes it clear why this law is so important. Our country should do what we can to protect minors fleeing violence in other parts of the world, and the tragic situations in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have forced many children to flee those nations in search of safety. It is important to note that these children are not just coming to the United States. Costa Rica and Belize, among other countries, have seen massive increases in children migrating into their countries as well.
"It is the exact wrong approach to say that we should respond to this humanitarian crisis by weakening that 2008 law. We should pass the President's supplemental funding request to help deal with the arrival of children coming into our country to get away from violent and dangerous situations, not gut the law that was set up to protect these children in the first place.
"The supplemental money is badly needed to help process the children who have come across our border. Certainly not all will qualify for asylum or refugee status under the 2008 law or other immigration laws on the book, but they should all have fair representation to make their cases in court in an expeditious manner.
"Finally, we should prioritize their placement with family members or sponsors. For families with children, we should seek alternatives to detention while they are awaiting their status determination. Many have family or friends they can stay with and others can benefit from numerous organizations that have experience in assisting immigrant families. Not only is this more humane than locking them up in detention centers, but it is also far less costly to our government.
"The increase in children coming into our country as they flee violence in their own is undeniably a challenge for the United States. But as a nation of immigrants and refugees, and one that has always placed a high a value on justice and fairness for all, we must attempt to meet that challenge in the most humane and caring way possible."