BarbWire contributor Brenda Zurita was recently cited by Breitbart News — here is an excerpt from the report:
Many assume that once trafficking victims are picked up by U.S. border patrol, they are in safe hands. Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told Breitbart News in June, “The fact is the average age of a child arriving is 14. Half of them are girls. There’s a vast network of people trafficking in human beings. Anybody that doesn’t know that, go to the United Nations report from last month of April—Honduras, murder capitol of the world.”
He added, “And among the ten top countries, it’s followed by El Salvador and Guatemala. But why would children come from those countries? Now they’re coming here. Now we have a policy in the United States that when they arrive we have to find them a safe place. That’s a very sensible policy in the United States.”
However, according to a white paper by Brenda Zurita, a research fellow at Concerned Women For America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, that just is not the case:
In the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2013 (Section 1261, which is an anti-trafficking provision), another layer was added to the care of UACs. If a UAC turns 18 while in the care of HHS and is then transferred to the custody of the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), the alien may be placed in an alternative to detention such as “with an individual or an organizational sponsor, or in a supervised group home.” How easy would it be for traffickers to snatch this young adult from these situations and put them into debt bondage, forced labor or sex trafficking?
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How did Health and Human Services get involved? Zurita gives a history of how authority was transferred through the years relating to trafficked individuals.
Zurita notes the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Section 462) transferred the authority to coordinate and implement the care of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal custody from the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In subsequent years after this transfer, the powers given to the HHS Secretary to care for UACs were expanded twice.
Six years later, Zurita says, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 (Section 235), the procedure to handle UACs was altered in an effort to combat child exploitation and trafficking. Children from Mexico and Canada are interviewed and repatriated immediately if it is determined they have not been trafficked or do not face danger upon return to their countries.
“However, for UACs from non-contiguous countries, the procedure is much different. Homeland Security has 72 hours to transfer them to HHS custody, whereupon UACs ‘shall be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child.’ The HHS Secretary is supposed to ensure that each custodian with which a child is placed has their identification and relationship to the child verified,” Zurita explained.
“The HHS Secretary is also supposed to determine that the custodian is capable of providing for the child’s physical and mental well-being. Currently, the number of custodial situations to verify is 52,000 and counting. How many of these “verified” custodians are working with traffickers? How many of these children will simply walk away from their ‘least restrictive setting?’”
Read more: Breitbart News
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