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MESA, AZ - JUNE 24: Undocumented Guatemalan immigrants are body searched before boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala City.
Unprecedented numbers of children immigrating illegally to the U.S. have overwhelmed the border and filled processing centers. President Obama issued his own warning to parents in Central America: “Do not send your children to the borders, if they do make it, they’ll get sent back.” But for most of the children crossing the border illegally, the deportation process is not that simple -- a 2008 anti-trafficking law requires unaccompanied minors from Central America to appear before an immigration judge, and a backlog of cases, made more extreme by the recent influx of migrant children, has delayed the legal process for many of these children. It can take months, even years, to send a case through the legal system, and in the interim, children are sent to live with family in the U.S., settling into a new life.
The law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, sought to crack down on modern day child slavery and trafficking -- it passed easily with support from both parties and was signed by President George W. Bush. While its proponents argue that the law is still necessary to defend the children currently in the system, as wells as future refugees, critics are working on doing away with it in order to expedite the deportation process.
Does the U.S. have the resources to continue detaining and processing child migrants using the current legal system? Is it fair to end the anti-trafficking law in order to speed up deportation of unaccompanied minors from Central America? What’s the best way for the U.S. to approach this issue?
Fawn Johnson, reporter with National Journal