Advocates defend child immigration hearing laws

Children- Happy GirlImmigrant advocacy groups are urging Congress to disregard the part of the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviation National Emergency Act that would end immigration hearings for unaccompanied minors.  The Los Angeles Times says that Congress has not yet approved the law; however, despite both Republicans and Democrats expressing the need for the US to deal with the issue humanely, advocates say that removing such hearings would remove the right of due process from children.

The bill was signed into law back in 2008 by President George W Bush as part of the battle against human trafficking, making it law that unaccompanied immigrant minors taken into custody at the border between the US and Canada or Mexico have to be given a screening within two days and then immediately sent home.  The law is not the same for minors from non-bordering countries, however, which is the case with the 57,000 minors who have arrived from Central American nations such as El Salvador and Honduras since October 2013.

Democrats and Republicans agreed to an immigration bill that would remove protections to minors from such countries before Congress went on its fall recess earlier this month, with the Los Angeles Times saying that it would be up to Border Patrol agents to decide whether a minor deserved to get a hearing.

The bill has been slammed by California attorney general Kamala Harris, who has refused to give support to the legislation on the grounds that it is more about expediency than compassion.  President Obama has warned that he will take executive action if Congress fails to act.