Unintended Consequences of George W. Bush Era Law Help Fuel Child Immigrant Border Crisis

Source: Tim Cohen

Washington (CNN) — It was a good idea back in 2008, in the final days of the Bush administration.

With almost no opposition, Congress passed a new law to protect immigrant children from sex traffickers trying to bring them to the United States. It required judges to hold hearings for youngsters from countries other than neighboring Mexico and Canada, preventing them from possibly getting turned away at the border.

More than five years later, though, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act is having unintended consequences. It contributes to the surge of child migrants from Central America overwhelming the U.S. immigration system.  Now some in Congress want to change the law — a possibility that could bring more unintended consequences.

A desire to crack down on the global child slave trade led to the law named for a 19th Century British abolitionist. President George W. Bush signed it the month before he left the White House.

It ensured that children who came to the United States got a full immigration hearing instead of being turned away or sent back. The goal of the hearing? To determine if the children had a valid claim for asylum.

Here’s the catch: The immigration courts are so backlogged that it can take years for a child’s hearing date to come around. As they wait, most stay with relatives or friends already in the country, attend school and generally go about their lives.

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