The New Mexico Democrat has taken on something of a leadership role on the issue at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Today’s floor speech, in which Heinrich also advocated for passage of the DREAM Act, was his second speech on the border crisis in a week. He said a proposal to amend the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act was misguided.
“The proposal introduced by Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn and similar proposals from my Republican colleagues would weaken the law and implement an expedited process that denies children the chance to go through an orderly process to determine if they need protection—and it applies to all unaccompanied children who cross the border,” Heinrich said. “I believe that we are a better nation than that.”
Heinrich was referring to a bipartisan proposal by Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, that would speed deportations. The Cornyn-Cuellar bill aims to change the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act to give Border Patrol agents greater authority to screen and deport Central American children.
Currently, the law allows for rapid deportation of children arriving at the U.S. border from Mexico, but not Central America.
The Cornyn-Cuellar bill would treat all children the same under the law by allowing them to file a legal claim with an immigration court within a week of being screened by Department of Health and Human Services officials.
A judge would have 72 hours to rule on whether the child is eligible to stay in the U.S. If not, the child would be returned to his or her home country.
I interviewed the entire New Mexico congressional delegation on the border crisis last week. You can read that story here.