The HUMANE Act, being introduced today by Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar and Texas Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn, seeks to close a loophole created by a 2008 anti sex trafficking law which many blame for the current rush of illegal immigrants from Central America into the United States, Newsradio 1200 WOAI news reports.
"It would require expedited hearings before an immigration judge," Cornyn said. "If people have a legitimate claim to an immigration benefit, if not, they would be return to their home country."
The act seeks to 'improve' the Bush era William Wilberforce Trafficking victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which allows any unaccompanied minor children from nations other than Mexico to request an asylum hearing before an immigration judge. The measure would seek all 'unaccompanied migrant children equally' and allow the Central American children to be immediately repatriated.
"All that the Senator and I are trying to do is to give them a speedy trial date, allow them to make their asylum claim, and if they can't make those claims, then they have to be returned," Cuellar said.
Lawmakers stress that the purpose of political asylum laws is not to allow people refuge in the U.S. from crime or poverty in their home country. The laws are to allow the U.S. to be a refuge for people who are facing repression by the government back home, and there is no indication that Central American governments are complicit in the gang violence and crime which many of the immigrants say is forcing them to emigrate.
"The asylum laws are fairly complicated," San Antonio immigration attorney Lance Curtright told Newsradio 1200 WOAI's MIchael Board. "I do think that a lot of them have been abused, and have been witness to physical and gang abuse."
The law requires that all of the unaccompanied minors be required to make their argument for political asylum in court within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening, which is also required under the 2008 law.
Many criminal syndicates in Mexico, looking for new sources of income due to dwindling drug profits, have been exploiting the protections granted in the 2008 law to encourage families in Central America to send their children to the United States, assuring them that thanks to the law, they will be allowed to stay.
Many of the families have borrowed as much as $10,000 to allow their children to make the trip through Mexico to the U.S.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands) says an underreported aspect of the wave of migrants into the U.S. has been those who do not survive.
"The process of identification takes a lot of coordination," Brady said. "And of 150 sets of remains found along the border, they have successfully identified just one."
He says that one was a child from Guatemala whose parents borrowed $2500 to give to an immigrant smuggler to facilitate his trip to the United States, a trip that ended in death. He says the family still has to repay the $2500, because Mexican cartels don't give refunds.
"To try to set foot on American soil, to get permits that don't exist," said Brady of the fictional 'permiso,' which is said to be a card that allows the children to remain in the U.S. "This is not the American dream that these children, or their parents, are seeking."