Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) announced his support for a bipartisan bill introduced by Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. The legislation is in direct response to the current humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children at the border.
The “Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency” Act or HUMANE Act’s purpose is to modify the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008. TVPRA is contributing to the current crisis. Its provisions treat children from countries not contiguous to the United States differently from Mexico and Canada. These provisions delay the repatriation of the children involved to their home countries for reunion with their parents. A key change in the bill allows border agents to ask children from non-contiguous countries if they wish to be reunited with their families and if so they can be quickly repatriated and reunited with their families in their country of origin.
“The current law needs reform. The proof of that is in the photographs of children sleeping on floors in holding facilities,” said Dent. “I’m supporting this proposal because it is a thoughtful, commonsense, bipartisan solution to the problem,” Dent added.
The legislation requires that unaccompanied children will appear before an immigration judge within 7 days of being screened by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Moreover, judges will be required to make a determination about a child’s eligibility to remain in the U.S. within 72 hours.
“These refinements will help expedite the process of getting these children reunited with their families and back to their homes,” said Dent. “Further, we will rigorously protect the health and safety of these children, even more so than before. For example, we will insist that HHS conduct FBI background checks on any person taking custody of an unaccompanied alien child.”
The bill also provides for additional resources necessary to maintain operational control of the border.
“We must remember the plight of these children is no fault of their own. The best thing we can do as a compassionate country is to speedily repatriate the children and reunite them with their parents. That’s what this bill does and it’s why I support it,” concluded Dent.
Congressman Dent serves on the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations
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