Today the Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The Senate will vote on amendments to the bill and thereafter vote on whether to pass the bill. One of the amendments, 276 proposed by Senator Inhofe, seeks to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 so that unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in our country from violence in the Northern Triangle can be deported quickly by the U.S. Government.
The TVPRA 2008 ensures protection to unaccompanied children arriving to the U.S. from a noncontiguous country. The unaccompanied children provisions of the TVPRA were passed in recognition that screening at the border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was not a sufficient way to protect children from trafficking and exploitation. These protections apply to ALL children from countries that do not share a border with the United States.
Rolling back the protections guaranteed to children and returning the law to its pre-TVPRA state will not keep smugglers from exploiting kids and their families. The only thing amending the TVPRA 2008 will do is deny extremely vulnerable and often traumatized children a meaningful opportunity to assert an asylum claim.
In addition to Senator Inhofe’s amendment, there are other anti-immigration measures that will be voted on during debate on S.178. While most democrats are not in favor of rolling back TVPRA protections, the bill is being used as a negotiating tool in the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. At this time it is unclear whether the anti-immigration amendments will be passed by the Senate before a final vote is taken on S.178.