Thousands of unaccompanied children without legal status have come into the United States recently. Changing a related 2008 law, advocates say, could both ensure their safety and that of the border. Opponents argue doing so would remove important safeguards.
Over the past two months, I have toured the Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas, and the Department of Health and Human Services facility at Lackland Air Force Base where immigrant children without legal status are being processed. As a father myself, the sight of hundreds of children scared and far away from home was a moving experience. More than a third of the young girls who arrive in our country aided by dangerous criminal networks have been victimized during their more than 1,000-mile journey. That is why we need to find a bipartisan legislative solution to amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to ensure that unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America are treated humanely, while preserving the security of our borders.
In June, more than 47,000 immigrants without legal status were apprehended at the border, and more than 9,700 of these were unaccompanied children. It is clear to me after extensive conversations with the men and women who protect our southern border that a legislative fix is necessary. The TVPRA is a strong piece of legislation that provides for the timely and safe return of unaccompanied children from contiguous countries (Canada and Mexico) to their native lands after a thorough screening that confirms they won't fall victim to human traffickers or face other abuse. This expeditious process has reduced the burden on our border resources and more quickly reunited families.
However, HHS currently follows a different procedure to handle children from countries other than Canada and Mexico: It takes custody of them until they can be placed with a U.S.-based family member or in a foster home. After this step, each child is...