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New Trafficking Law

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DECEMBER 11, 2008

From our friends at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

New Trafficking Law Helps Protect  Vulnerable Children

BALTIMORE — Last night the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), H.R. 7311, putting before President Bush a landmark opportunity to protect thousands of trafficking victims.  [The president signed the act into law on Dec. 23, 2008.]  Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) applauds the passage of this bill, which includes long-sought reforms to aid and protect vulnerable immigrant children.

Every year thousands of foreign-born children arrive in the United States with no adult to accompany them. Among those taken into federal custody to undergo immigration processing, many have been trafficked, persecuted in their home countries, or subjected to domestic violence, abuse, and neglect.

"In a country as great as the United States we must ensure that children are treated humanely and in accord with national and international standards, especially when so many have experienced shocking violence and abuse," said LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr.

The TVPRA sets new standards for how children will be treated in custody, the kind of mental health and other services they will receive, and the conditions under which they can be sent home. "This law makes clear the joint responsibility of all federal agencies to be sure these children are safe," said LIRS Vice President for Protection Susan Krehbiel. "For the first time, federal officials will be required to follow child welfare principles, including the 'best interests of the child' standard, when making decisions about their care and their return."

The TVPRA will assist in the identification and protection of trafficking survivors and those who are eligible for asylum and other forms of immigration relief. The bill will help ensure that more trafficked children receive protection and critical services.

"LIRS is grateful to sponsors of the trafficking bill, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Rep. Berman (D-CA) and the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA)," said LIRS Director for Legislative Affairs Gregory Chen. "We extend our deepest appreciation to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who have worked tirelessly for eight years to pass legislation that protects vulnerable unaccompanied children. Without their efforts, these critical reforms would never have become a reality."

For three decades LIRS has resettled unaccompanied refugee children, administered foster care for trafficked youth and provided services to minors in federal immigration custody. LIRS is a cooperative agency of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran in America.