As politicians scramble to find a solution to the border crisis — at least one that voters will favor in November — the most recent legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, D-TX, has been called a ploy to expedite the deportation process. The Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act has been oversimplified as anti-immigrant, and while it certainly needs to be revised to include provisions for pro bono legal counsel, for example, the overall intent of the bill would undoubtedly ease the crisis. Because of its requirement that all undocumented immigrants be treated equally regardless of country of origin, undocumented minors from Central America would receive a quick screening and probable deportation just as those from Mexico do. The HUMANE Act would send thousands of children back into the arms of poverty and gang violence, but it also fixes inefficiencies in the current immigration system, which is not pragmatic for circumstances at the border.
Current immigration law treats undocumented children from Mexico and Central America differently. When undocumented minors come from Mexico, their fate is determined within a week by an immigration judge. But undocumented minors from non-contiguous countries are transferred into the custody of Health and Human Services. Then, they could be given a court date that may not come for months or even years. The legislation proffered by Cornyn and Cuellar would absolutely expedite the deportation process, but the alternative — having undocumented minors wait for an indefinite amount of time before any action is taken — not only leaves these children unsure about their future, but it also undermines the law. Although the border crisis has been regarded as a humanitarian issue, the government has the responsibility to uphold the law in order to send the message, both domestically and internationally, that our immigration laws are not applied on a case-by-case basis.
Davis is an associate editor.