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Denver Post: Compassion and strength at the U.S. border
The Denver Post
First Published Jul 09 2014 11:03 am • Last Updated Jul 09 2014 11:03 am

The images of children who have crossed into the U.S. illegally are heart-rending portraits of desperation.

Yet, they also are vividly illustrative of how a well-intentioned law can result in an unintended dilemma.

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President Obama announced Tuesday he is seeking $3.7 billion to deal with what he appropriately calls a humanitarian crisis. But the president also must buck the left wing of his party and seek changes to speed up and ease deportations.

One should not come without the other.

The approximately 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have been caught this year illegally crossing the U.S. southern border are doing so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the protection offered by a 2008 law.

Passed by unanimous consent in both chambers of Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush, it was intended to address child victims of sex trafficking. The law laid out exactly how such children were to be treated, and how they might seek asylum. The process, which could include hearings before immigration courts, often takes years.

The full story behind the wave of kids seeking protection under a law enacted five years ago is a matter of debate, but surely violence and poverty in their home countries are contributing factors.

And we have no small amount of sympathy for them. Some of the money the president has requested will be used to ensure humane treatment of detainees, and we’re glad to see that.

However, policymakers should not allow the improper use of the 2008 law to substitute for comprehensive immigration reform addressing these children and others who want to come here. This situation is a stark example as to why change is needed.

In the meantime, lawmakers should pass legislation streamlining the process of returning these children to their home countries as both a matter of principle and as a deterrent to others contemplating the dangerous journey.


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