This week may bring key votes in Congress responding to the increase in child refugees entering the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Some of these children are fleeing widespread slavery in their home countries. But one of the policy revisions being debated in Washington would repeal protection for child slaves under American law.
Free the Slaves has joined 90 religious, academic and human rights leaders urging Congress and the Obama administration to safeguard runaway slaves by maintaining the procedures established in 2008 for child refugees under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
A letter delivered to key House and Senate committee leaders explains that “amending the TVPRA is not the solution” and notes that discarding portions of America’s groundbreaking anti-trafficking law would be “jeopardizing the lives of children seeking safety in the United States.”
Read the full letter to Congress here.
“Instead of abiding by our international obligations and affording these children proper screening for trafficking and persecution, as well as the opportunity to receive fair and full consideration of their legal claims before an immigration judge, members of Congress appear to propose quickly removing them without access to legal counsel. Removals would follow cursory screenings that have already proven entirely inadequate to identify genuine refugee and trafficking claims among Mexican children.”
The joint letter was authored by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of leading anti-slavery organizations, including FTS.
“We are encouraged that Congress is considering additional funding to both address the conditions of the children as well as provide more rapid consideration of the status of these children and their safe repatriation,” the letter concludes. “These efforts appear to be a better approach than weakening the protections these children deserve by changing the TVPRA.”
If you would like to be heard on protecting child slavery victims, now is the time. You can find the contact information for your U.S. Senators at senate.gov and House member at house.gov. Just type in your zip code in the upper right of the webpages. Then give your elected representatives a call or send them an email to tell them to protect child trafficking victims by protecting the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.