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SJR-31 Immigration: unaccompanied minors.(2013-2014)

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Amended  IN  Senate  August 19, 2014


Senate Joint Resolution
No. 31

Introduced by Senators Torres, Corbett, De León, Hernandez, Hueso, Jackson, Lara, and Steinberg
(Coauthors: Senators Anderson, Leno, Monning, and Vidak)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Alejo, Bocanegra, Campos, Eggman, Gonzalez, Roger Hernández, Holden, Medina, Perea, Rendon, and Rodriguez)

August 06, 2014

Relative to immigration.


SJR 31, as amended, Torres. Immigration: unaccompanied minors.
This measure would urge the President and Congress of the United States to take specified action and adopt specified policies designed to protect unaccompanied minors immigrating to the United States.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, An unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors from Central America have migrated into the United States at the Mexican border, creating a humanitarian crisis and requiring immediate action by the Administration and Congress of the United States; and
WHEREAS, According to United States Customs and Border Protection, the United States government has apprehended approximately 52,000 unaccompanied minors so far this fiscal year and expects to apprehend at least 90,000 by the end of September; and
WHEREAS, As of the end of May, 2014, the United States Border Patrol had apprehended more unaccompanied minors than in any of the previous five years, and almost twice as many unaccompanied minors as in the 2011–12 fiscal year; and
WHEREAS, Although unaccompanied minors have been entering the United States through the southwest border for years, the surge in the last several months has overloaded border patrol stations and detention facilities; and
WHEREAS, This upsurge in unaccompanied minors has created the need for more housing and legal services; and
WHEREAS, Currently, about 76 percent of unaccompanied minors apprehended are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and the remaining 24 percent are from Mexico; and
WHEREAS, In the 2012–13 fiscal year, 73 percent of the unaccompanied minors were male and 27 percent were female, and 76 percent were over 14 years of age; and
WHEREAS, The average length of stay in immigration detention facilities was 61 days between the 2007–08 and 2009–10 fiscal years, while the current reported average stay is 35 days; and
WHEREAS, Many of the laws and procedures regarding unaccompanied minors were developed to protect children from human trafficking and other threats of violence; and
WHEREAS, By law, immigration cases involving unaccompanied minors are focused on the welfare of the child, rather than detention, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must place the children in the “least restrictive setting” possible; and
WHEREAS, Unaccompanied minors from contiguous countries, such as Mexico and Canada, may elect to return to their county country of origin when apprehended at the border or enter the immigration system, but they are not automatically taken into custody; and
WHEREAS, Unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous countries are automatically taken into custody, but are still subject to immigration proceedings and potential deportation; and
WHEREAS, A recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that a majority of unaccompanied minors whom they interviewed that have been apprehended at the southwest border, many from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, were fleeing instances of extreme violence such as drug cartels and gang activity. Others are victims of human trafficking or were living in poverty and are attempting to reunite with family members already in the United States, traveling alone, crossing mountains and deserts, and facing unknown dangers and harm along their journey; and
WHEREAS, The United States has always been a leader in providing care and assistance to those in danger and in need; and
WHEREAS, Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which continued a long history of establishing procedures that fairly and safely repatriate unaccompanied minors to their home countries; and
WHEREAS, The United States must recognize this is a humanitarian crisis impacting young and innocent children. These children have lost their childhood and everything they know, including their parents; and
WHEREAS, As an international leader in the humane treatment of individuals, the United States has a responsibility to treat these children humanely and ensure that those who have arrived alone have a safe place to stay; and
WHEREAS, Addressing the issue of unaccompanied children will require cooperation from all branches of the United States government and appropriate funding to respond to the crisis in a humanitarian and child protection-focused manner; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature urges the President and Congress of the United States to focus resources on protecting unaccompanied children immigrating into the United States from harm, uphold their right to due process, and work with our international partners to address the root problems that put these children in danger in their home countries; and be it further
Resolved, That the Legislature urges the President and Congress of the United States to adopt immigration policies that ensure that unaccompanied minors receive appropriate child welfare services, legal assistance, and access to immigration protection; and be it further
Resolved, That the Legislature urges the President and Congress of the United States to require that a best interest of the child standard be applied in immigration proceedings involving unaccompanied minors; and be it further
Resolved, That the Legislature urges the President and Congress of the United States to place all unaccompanied minors in the custody of HHS to ensure they receive careful and robust screening and protection to ensure their safety and well-being; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to the Majority Leader of the Senate, to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States, and to the author for appropriate distribution.