The Law Behind the Unaccompanied Minors Immigration Crisis, Supported by Conservatives


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Why, oh why, are kids from trans-Mexican Latin America suddenly lining up for, essentially, asylum on the borders of the U.S.?

It’s because of a law passed a few years ago — one promoted by the same “act first and think later” anti-prostitution religious conservatives like “Californians Against Slavery” that pushed Prop 35 in 2012.  It’s not a plot — it’s a law with unintended consequences.  We committed not to deporting unaccompanied minors from Central America due to fears that they might otherwise become embroiled in child prostitution — and their governments said “fine, they you have have them.”

And, I almost forgot to mention — it was signed by President George W. Bush in December 2008.

Wilberforce and Legacy

Famed early 19th-century anti-slavery activist Bishop William Wilberforce — and some of the unintended consequences brought to our shores by his naive followers.

I don’t mention the genesis of the law to degrade it.  This was well-intentioned, although stopping child prostitution by creating a safe haven for Central American youth (whose countries, by the way, our nation has played a huge hand in wrecking in the interests of anti-communism) has a “bailing out a lake using a thimble” sense to it.  The problem with it was that, duly enacted law or not, the people of this country do NOT make fighting child prostitution a major priority — and least not if it costs us anything more than words — and we were nowhere near ready to pay the price for it.

Here’s an article from yesterday’s New York Times that you absolutely, without question, have to read if you want to express an informed opinion on what’s happening right now.  (Someone please scotch tape it to Darrell Issa’s forehead; maybe he’ll notice it.)  I’ll reproduce its first four paragraphs below, but you should read the whole thing.  (Note: I’ve added an important fifth paragraph as well.  Forgive me, NYT!)

It was one of the final pieces of legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush, a measure that passed without controversy, along with a pension bill and another one calling for national parks to be commemorated on quarters.

“This is a piece of legislation we’re very proud to sign,” a White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, told reporters on Dec. 23, 2008, as the president put his pen to theWilliam Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, named for a 19th-century British abolitionist. “This program has been very effective around the world in trying to stop trafficking in persons.”

Now the legislation, enacted quietly during the transition to the Obama administration, is at the root of the potentially calamitous flow of unaccompanied minors to the nation’s southern border.

Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin.

Instead, it required that they be given an opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing and consult with an advocate, and it recommended that they have access to counsel. It also required that they be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the agency was directed to place the minor “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting those children with family members.

There’s more.  There’s much, much more for you to read — but that’s the gist.  If you don’t read it, if you don’t understand it, if you make up conspiracy theories that fail to recognize the Wilberforce Act’s existence, then you are being an ignorant idiot and should prepare to be treated accordingly.

By the way – when will religious groups stand up and defend the law that they got passed?


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.