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More Children Held in Detention Centers

La Opinin, Posted: Sep 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- The detention of immigrant children for federal investigation has led to confusion among consulates and human rights groups claiming that hundreds of children could be detained for months before reuniting with their families, reports La Opinin.

A new law designed to combat labor and sex trafficking, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, H.R. 7311, requires that the case of every unaccompanied minor detained along the border be investigated before the child is repatriated. The law calls on investigators to research the reason for their entry into the country and the immigrant status of their parents.

But critics say its implementation could do more harm than good. In the past, when the Border Patrol detained a minor, they notified the consulate, which then located the minor's family and reunited them. Now, the minor is delivered to the Department of Health and Human Services' office and stays in a Division of Unaccompanied Children's Services (DUCS) shelter until his or her parents are located. Federico Bass Villarreal, spokesperson for the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, said minors would no longer be handed over to consulates until their family was located. A process that used to take hours, he said, could now take months. According to the Department of Homeland Security, about 10 percent of the immigrants arrested crossing the border are minors.

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