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U.S. bishops advocate against migrant child exploitation

The U.S. bishops’ migration committee, led by Bishop Mark Seitz, is urging Congress to address the vulnerability of unaccompanied migrant children to exploitation, forced labor, and human trafficking.

In a letter to Congress, they highlighted the significant increase in such vulnerable children in recent years. The bishops proposed ten measures to protect these children, including enhancing funding, scope, and training for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). They called for clarification that the ORR can intervene to safeguard a child’s well-being even after release to a sponsor, and advocated for the establishment of a dedicated position in the ORR to prevent child trafficking.

The bishops also urged Congress to create an independent review board of relevant nonprofits and pass the Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act, which aims to expedite the legal status process for especially vulnerable migrant children. They argued that current delays exacerbate vulnerabilities and that the proposed law would align with other humanitarian populations in U.S. immigration law.

The National Catholic Register reports:

The bishops called for Congress to establish an independent review board of relevant nonprofits to advise the federal government on how to best protect migrant children from abuse.

The U.S. bishops’ migration committee, headed by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, is urging Congress to take new measures to protect migrant children from human trafficking.

According to the bishops’ letter, which was sent to both the Senate and the House of Representatives, unaccompanied migrant children are “most vulnerable” to exploitation, forced labor, and human trafficking. The number of these vulnerable children, the bishops said in their letter to Congress, “has increased significantly in recent years.”

“In recent months,” Bishop Seitz wrote in the letter, “several concerning reports have emerged regarding incidents of migrant children in the United States suffering exploitative labor conditions and other harmful situations.”

“Exploitation in its various forms is most likely to occur,” the letter went on, “when an individual is isolated from support or confronted by systemic barriers in accessing assistance.”

The letter added that “this is especially true for unaccompanied children as an inherently vulnerable population.”

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