SAN ANTONIO-- In a press release last week Congressman Henry Cuellar D-Texas 28 and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas revealed proposed legislation dubbed the HUMANE ACT. HUMANE is the acronym for Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency.
"The border region in Texas has been overwhelmed over the past few months by a deluge of undocumented immigrants from Central America," said Congressman Cuellar. "Today's legislation strengthens current law protecting unaccompanied children and responds to the crisis while supporting the men and women of Border Patrol. I would like to thank Senator John Cornyn for partnering with me on this legislation and I ask my colleagues in the House and Senate to act quickly on this bill."
Congressman Cuellar said the proposal would improve the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 by treating all unaccompanied minors equally and ensuring due process under the law in a timely, fair manner.
The HUMANE Act would:
· Improve the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008—treating all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country.
· Keep current protections for safe repatriation.
· Allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose, and keeps current law in place requiring HHS to make all efforts to secure pro-bono legal counsel for the child.
· Require immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country.
· Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide unaccompanied migrant children with protective shelter while they are awaiting their initial hearing in court before a judge.
· Allow access to these expedited court hearings for unaccompanied migrant children who have already been released to sponsors with notices to appear in immigration court.
· Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct FBI fingerprint background checks on any person taking custody of an unaccompanied alien child. Prohibits the Secretary from releasing children to persons convicted of sex offenses and human trafficking.
. Require a plan and provide for additional resources necessary for operational control of our southern border.
Monday morning in two separate demonstrations downtown groups protested the proposed HUMANE Act saying expediting deportation is not the answer.
"We know that they're fleeing violence and violent territories. So what we have to do is we have to embrace the fact that these kids are looking for a better place to be," said Gabriel Velasquez, Chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party. "There is no better American than a child who's dream is the American dream."