Another View -- Charles Lane: The unintended consequences of our immigration laws are severe
The 1965 Cuban Adjustment Act gave all people fleeing that Communist island the right to legal residence once they reach U.S. soil. Over time, this evolved into the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, whereby the U.S. government could exclude a Cuban rafter caught in the surf off Key West — but not after he had touched the beach.
President George W. Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act on Dec. 23, 2008, thinking he was fighting the global traffic in sex slaves, many of them children. The Democratic Congress that passed the bill agreed. Hence its title, an homage to 19th-century Britain’s greatest foe of the slave trade.
This law’s special mistake was to guarantee an immigration hearing to unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States on the theory they might be victims of sex trafficking and to let them live with U.S.-based family, if any, until a judge was available.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other senior officials have, belatedly, started countering trafficker misinformation in Central America. The President has a $3.7 billion plan to provide housing, services and the due process called for under the Wilberforce Act.
Charles Lane is a member of The Washington Post’s editorial board.
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