Bipartisan bill would speed up child migrant repatriation process

 

Texans Sen. John Cornyn (R) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) will introduce a bipartisan bill this week removing protections for most of the unaccompanied child migrants crossing the border.

The legislation, expected to be introduced formally on Tuesday, would amend a 2008 human trafficking law that the Obama administration says has limited their ability to quickly send child migrants back to their home countries.

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Under current law, unaccompanied immigrant children from Mexico or Canada must be screened within 48 hours and sent back unless they are human trafficking victims or have claims for asylum. But children from countries that don't border the U.S. must be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and appear at an immigration hearing, which is a lengthier process.

Nearly 75 percent of the unaccompanied child migrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Consequently, they have not been deported back to their home countries as quickly.

Cuellar and Cornyn's bill would allow unaccompanied child migrants who have a claim to stay legally in the U.S. to appear in court before an immigration judge within seven days of an HHS screening, according to a summary provided by both offices. The department would be responsible for providing the children with shelter while awaiting an immigration hearing.

Then, an immigration judge would make a decision on whether the child could stay in the U.S. within 72 hours.

The measure would authorize 40 new immigration judges for the hearings to alleviate the backlog.

Republicans have called for amending the 2008 law in order to alleviate the influx of child migrants and deter others from crossing the border. The Obama administration has also indicated support for modifying the law.

But many congressional Democrats wary of increased deportations may push back against such proposals. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have already distanced themselves from Cuellar, a moderate Democrat, on the issue.

Cuellar indicated that they would try to attach the measure to the administration's supplemental appropriations request for the border.

"There's a train moving. We're going to try to put it on the train," Cuellar said.
 
Cornyn, for his part, said he didn't think he would vote for the emergency funds without policy changes.
 
"I couldn't vote for this supplemental without the reforms," Cornyn said.
 
The No. 2 Senate Republican argued that the emergency funding alone would not help stem the flow of child migrants.
 
"The money itself is not a solution to the problem," Cornyn said. "This is a solution to the problem."
 
This story was updated at 6:32 p.m.
 

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