Updated 03:53 AM EDT, Fri, Apr 16, 2021

Child Sex Trade: Dirty Secrets of the 2014 Immigration Crisis

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Child sex trafficking has historically had a huge effect on the current immigration crisis in the U.S., and according to two Texas congressmen, it still does. But with the pressure increasing at the border, the two lawmakers are looking to change that. 

According to the Alliance to End Trafficking and Slavery, the issue of child sex trafficking started to gain international attention when hundreds of thousands of victims started being identified.

"In the beginning of the 21st century, at least 700,000 people were reported as victims of international trafficking each year, 14,500-17,500 of which are women and children who are trafficked specifically into the United States," the organization's website said.

A law meant to protect children from being trafficked into sex slavery was enacted to address the issue, and allowed migrant children who came to the United States from Central and South America added protections.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was enacted in 2000, and reauthorized several times, including in 2008 and 2013. It's the main U.S. federal legal instrument to address human trafficking and the cross-border sex trade.

That act makes a special note about the child sex trade when it specifically mentions: "Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age."

Those protections afforded the children three days in custody, and a ticket to a future hearing in an immigration court. Those hearings were often scheduled way into the future, according to reports.

The outcome for many of those cases was that once the children were reunited with their families, they never showed up to court for their hearings.

This bill was also enacted to protect children who were part of the child sex trade from being sent back to be in harm's way.

There was an amendment made to the original trafficking law in 2013, which built on those protections of the previous amendment know as the Wilberforce Act, and made it important to house and screen children coming across the border alone.

It required "an immigration officer with expertise in child welfare in separate child-friendly facilities conducive to disclosing information related to human trafficking or exploitation; and require each federal agency to notify the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 24 (currently 48) hours regarding the apprehension of an unaccompanied alien child or regarding any claim that an alien in custody is under age 18. "

The law in 2013 focused on countries with a high rate of child sex trafficking, which included those in Central America, which has made it more difficult today --- according to the Obama administration --- to deal with the current influx of children.

A new bill being introduced by two Texas politicians, however, seeks to amend that trafficking protection legislation with a piece of legislation called the "Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency Act," or HUMANE.

The bill is being introduced by Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar. It states a shortened timeline for legal proceedings for unaccompanied children crossing the border.

The proposed bill would seek to have these children receive a hearing no later than seven days after they are screened by border officials, and immigration court judges would have to make a decision in the child's case within 72 hours, or order further proceeding, such as making a case for asylum.

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