According to a Gallup research poll conducted in July 2014, a good percentage of Americans name immigration as the country’s main problem. Although America is a land populated by migrants, illegal migrants are regarded as a problem source because they do not have a ready means of sustaining themselves and as such are a great strain on the country’s resources.
Immigration law and policy relating to unaccompanied children has been formulated to protect children against issues such as trafficking and violence in their countries of origin. However, these immigration policies and laws have inadvertently created an avenue for a wave of migration of unaccompanied children into the country thus exacerbating an already difficult situation. Being familiar with the current regulatory provisions will help encourage informed debate and contributions towards constructive reform of the immigration laws.
The law on unaccompanied alien children entering the States
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008 has set up specific procedures about how to deal with child immigrants from non-contiguous nations. It provides that when children from nations other than Canada and Mexico arrive at the border unaccompanied, they should go through special processing by the Department of Health and Human Services. If they have family in the country, they may be re-united with them. However, if it is determined that they should be taken back to their country of origin, then the Department of Justice organises for their repatriation. However, the proceedings take years to complete and the unaccompanied children are not usually detained, so they find their way into the country and add to the number of undocumented immigrants.
Policy regulating their ability to stay in the USA
Following a presidential directive, unaccompanied children who were brought into the country before 2007 were granted a reprieve. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, children who arrived in the country unlawfully can now go ahead and lawfully seek work authorization to take up jobs. Therefore, through this program, child migrants who had initially entered into the country illegally subsequently get to legalize their stay and are able to work without the threat of being deported. This has served to further enhance the problem of unlawful immigration into the country
Deportation and removal
As it stands, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is empowered to ensure that illegal migrants who are denied entry are forthwith removed from the country. The agency also has authority to make decisions about whether unaccompanied child migrants from Mexico and Canada should be allowed into the country. However, since the Agency only enforces the law and cannot change its provisions, a more permanent solution would be to reform or overhaul the immigration laws and policies to stem the wave of illegal child migration that ultimately contributes to the immigration crisis.
There are specific laws relating to the treatment of unaccompanied child migrants and the resulting illegal migration into the country. The laws seek to distinguish between those children who genuinely need asylum from those who should be removed from the country. However, as evidenced herein, the legal provisions and the procedures put in place are not strong enough to curb the wave of illegal migration that has resulted.