Obama seeks change to law that protects immigrant kids

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from USAToday,

As part of an effort to stem the flood of children caught trying to cross the nation’s southwest border, President Obama is trying to change a 2008 law that dictates how the federal government handles those immigrant children in order to speed up their deportations.

Under that law, most of the unaccompanied minors being caught by Border Patrol agents must be handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which coordinates care for them, finds them safe housing and helps advise them on their legal rights as their immigration cases are decided. The president is now asking Congress to amend the law in a way that would allow Border Patrol agents to render a deportation decision themselves and quickly deport the children back to their home country.

Obama made a vague request for changes to federal law in a letter he wrote to congressional leaders on Monday. But a White House official confirmed on Wednesday that the administration is considering changes to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, known as the TVPRA, to fast-track deportation decisions.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the requested changes, said the administration remains committed to the basic tenets of the TVPRA that guarantee protection for children from trafficking and ensures they aren’t deported to a dangerous situation. But the official said the changes are necessary to update a law that was crafted when the flow of unaccompanied minors crossing the border was far lower.

The change is part of a broad effort by the Obama administration to get a handle on the flood of young immigrants crossing the border. More than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have been caught on the border so far this year, most coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The White House is requesting about $2 billion to house the children and move to the border a flock of immigration judges, U.S. attorneys and asylum advocates to counsel some immigrants on their asylum applications.

But immigration attorneys were ourtaged by the notion of changing a law designed to protect unaccompanied minors who may be victims of trafficking and violence.

“It’s an utter devastation of due process for our most vulnerable community members,” said Ruthie Epstein, a Washington-based policy analyst at the ACLU.

The White House wants all immigration cases – those that end with a deportation or an approval to remain in the country – resolved more quickly. Immigration courts are backlogged around the country, leaving children and adults waiting months or years for their cases to be resolved.

The 2008 law, which passed both chambers of Congress by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President George W. Bush, dictates exactly how children caught crossing the border without their parents must be treated.

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