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Fix the law to end influx of children

  • (DANA SUMMERS / Tribune Content Agency)

Congress likes to put fancy titles on its legislative handiwork, but they should probably just call everything the Law of Unintended Consequences, especially immigration bills.

The 1965 Cuban Adjustment Act gave all people fleeing that Communist island the right to legal residence once they reach U.S. soil. Over time, this evolved into the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, whereby the U.S. government could exclude a Cuban rafter caught in the surf off Key West — but not after he had touched the beach.

Many a desperate Cuban has perished at sea trying to avoid one U.S. agency, the Coast Guard, in hopes of reaching another U.S. agency, the one with the green cards, on land.

President George W. Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on Dec. 23, 2008, thinking he was fighting the global traffic in sex slaves, many of them children. The Democratic Congress that passed the bill agreed. Hence its title, an homage to 19th-century Britain’s greatest foe of the slave trade.

Half a decade later, the Wilberforce Act has mutated into a source of chaos, the victims of which are children, and the greatest beneficiaries, human traffickers.

This law’s special mistake was to guarantee an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States on the theory they might be victims of sex trafficking and to let them live with U.S.-based family, if any, until a judge was available.

Kids from next-door Mexico and Canada were excepted. But the bill’s authors apparently forgot about Central America or underestimated the desire of Central Americans who reside in the United States, with or without documents, to extract their children from violence and poverty back home, even at the risk of a dangerous journey north.

They failed to anticipate that trafficking mafias in Mexico would market temporary entry pending the delayed hearings as a new form of “permiso” (“permit”) and can charge families $10,000 per child to pursue it.

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