WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, today urged the President and Congress against weakening protections for unaccompanied children entering the United States that were enacted under the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The TVPRA ensures that unaccompanied minors crossing the border are provided with basic services and due process protections. Deporting children back to their home countries without proper screening or holding them at the border without key services will both significantly increase the risk of sex or labor trafficking and fail to aid victims.
“The screening and legal representation required by the TVPRA protects children from further exploitation,” said Chris Ann Keehner, Polaris’s Director of Policy. “Polaris opposes legislation and other efforts designed to weaken these vital provisions. Instead, Congress and the Administration should work to protect the children who are here, while also addressing the root causes that make children and adults vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking in their home countries.”
A key component of the 2008 TVPRA ensures that foreign children fleeing violence or who are victims of human trafficking are able to request and receive support while they are in U.S. custody. The majority of the children arriving at the U.S. border are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. According to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, many of these children are fleeing violence, gangs, and abuse. The U.S. Department of State’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report acknowledged that, in each of these countries, women and children are exploited through both sex and labor trafficking and that gangs often threaten and use children for illegal activities.
“The influx of thousands of unaccompanied children into the United States is a humanitarian crisis requiring an immediate response,” continued Keehner. “Now is the time to ensure these children are safe and protected, and not the time to dismantle the very measures meant to protect them. Proposed changes to the nation’s cornerstone anti-human trafficking law will have a detrimental impact on the ability to prevent sex and labor trafficking and aid victims.”
People can receive help, report a tip, or request information or training by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a text to BeFree (233733).