For the last two weeks or so, images of refugees – mostly children from the countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – lining up at the southern border to be taken in to custody by federal border agents, has prompted intensification of an already, heated debate over immigration reform. While the solutions proposed by the Obama administration and by a group of bipartisan lawmakers from Texas each address the process by which each refugee’s immigration case may be handled and how much money should be appropriated for that process and for the care of the children while they await any court hearings, the political discourse has focused on assigning blame more so than seeking solutions.
Many observers have noted that current law already establishes a process by which those fleeing these Central American countries can seek asylum here in the United States. In 2008 then-President George Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 as an effort to stem the tide of human trafficking originating in some of these countries. The law passed by nearly-unanimous votes in both houses of Congress treated immigrants from such countries differently than those coming over the borders from Canada or Mexico. Because the bill gave substantial new protections to this group of children by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin, many believe the distinctive treatment given such young immigrants prompted the migration to our southern border.
Other critics have suggested that more recent executive actions by President Barack Obama have spurred the humanitarian crisis. They contend that his administration’s executive order instituting DACA to allow certain individuals who came here as children and grew up in the United States to remain here on a temporary basis acted as an inducement for young people from Central America to migrate here.
Neither explanation focuses on the high levels of violence in the countries of origin of these children or the failure of Mexican officials to stop the migration as the children make their way up from Central America. Instead the crisis has become part of a larger proxy war between those who would like to see passage of comprehensive immigration reform and those who do not.
In the meantime, it is critical, in the event that reform does become law that the immigration attorneys in this country be prepared for the new category of cases any new law is likely to generate. Edward Shulman, Esq, founder of The Shulman Law Group, LLC is a national speaker for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, and to advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice. In the course of Mr. Shulman’s involvement with AILA, he has been dedicated to educating other immigration attorneys about the import of helping intending immigrants to navigate a new cultural system. He meticulously follows all of the developments occurring in the battle over immigration reform so that he will be prepared to effectively assist his clients obtain residency if a new system is enacted.