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World Vision: House bill fails to protect children or address root causes of U.S. border crisis

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Lauren Fisher

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WASHINGTON, DC (August 1, 2014) — This evening, the House of Representatives passed HR5230 in its efforts to address the issue of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border. World Vision opposes many of the provisions in this legislation. Of particular concern are the changes made to the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which World Vision championed when it was passed unanimously with bipartisan support six years ago. These changes will deny children a chance to be heard and place vulnerable children in harm’s way by expediting their return to the countries they fled due to violence.

The current law, as it stands, includes a provision that allows it to be waived in "extraordinary circumstances." It was created specifically to address the very type of violence and exploitation many of the children are fleeing from in countries like Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world.

“This legislation places already vulnerable children in even more danger,” said Jesse Eaves, the senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision. “They might as well have changed the name of the law to the “Trafficking Victims ‘As long as they don’t touch our soil’ Protection Act. It takes out nearly every safeguard that both parties clearly thought were essential in their vote six years ago.”

Also a concern in the new bill is the total failure to address the root causes of why these children are fleeing their country to begin with. A recent United Nations report (PDF) found 58 percent of the children crossing unaccompanied into the United States cited violence as the reason they fled. Just last month, the government of Honduras unexpectedly shut down its child welfare agency due to extreme dysfunction, leaving children there without any safety net in place. Unless the Unites States addresses why these children are fleeing their countries to begin with, then the children will just keep coming to the U.S. border.

World Vision and several other faith-based groups currently run several development and violence prevention programs that aim to address to root causes of violence and help provide employment for those most likely to be recruited by gangs.

“These children are not statistics,” said Eaves. “They are not criminals. They are refugees. But more than that, they are children and our faith is clear that we help all children. Not just those with the right paperwork.”

Both Houses of Congress are now gone for five weeks, leaving an urgent issue to wait until they return in September.

“The whole situation makes us so sad,” continued Eaves. “Children should never be treated as political pawns.”

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About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press or follow us on Twitter @WorldVisionNews.