New Senate Bill On Immigration Will Only Harm - Not Protect - Children

Senator Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week advanced S. 1494 the Secure and Protect Act of 2019.  This legislation is without question, one of the harshest and cruelest anti-asylum bills ever drafted, not to mention, advanced through either chamber of Congress - though it did advance out of the Committee by breaking precedent. 

If enacted, S. 1494 would allow for indefinite detention of immigrant children and would also allow for a child’s swift removal to a dangerous country where they are highly at risk for human trafficking.  Under this bill, unaccompanied minors who have already faced horrors, escaped a dangerous country and migrated hundreds of miles will be met with sham courts that use deterrence rather than child protection as their standard.

But children should be allowed to have their cases to be heard based on the merits, with proper representation and without predetermined outcomes or statutory red tape.  Senator Graham’s irresponsible and cruel legislation would immediately halt any Central American seeking asylum from ever reaching the United States. For those already here, the bill would mean almost certain removal of both unaccompanied and accompanied minors.

The United States often takes a public stance against human trafficking, and proclaims its intent to protect children from trafficking, including in the most recent State Department Trafficking in Persons report. This bill is contrary to the values and ideals laid out in that report.   

Refugees seeking asylum should be able to present their case to an American Immigration Court.  Creating a new rule-set for Central American refugees is beyond abhorrent – it is rightfully condemned by all those who seek to stop traffickers of children. 

ECPAT-USA joins with the dozens of like-minded NGOs and millions of other Americans to call upon Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues to ensure that this bill never gets close to passage and to stop this horrific assault on unaccompanied children, asylum seekers, and refugees.