Since we can’t count on Congress to get this done, it will have to come from the state legislature.
The federal government has known for decades that parents, other relatives and sponsors in the U.S. whether here legally or illegally, have been paying coyotes and other criminal entities to smuggle children to the border who then enter as unaccompanied alien children (UAC). But Congress is too dysfunctional (even when Republicans are in the majority), to do anything about it. State legislators on the other hand have the authority to effectively address the issue. Criminalizing child smuggling is a way that helps protect children, disincentivizes illegal immigration to the state, and makes it clear that the state government will not abet facilitating illegal immigration or turn a blind eye to anyone who does.
Ignoring this practice is unfair to the children and unfair to American citizens and legal immigrants.
Whether a person uses a child to help get them over the border more easily, albeit illegally, or pays a coyote to smuggle a child over the border to reunite with a “biological relative” who may themselves be illegally in the country, using children in this way must stop.
The first situation was sickeningly and tragically illustrated in a recent case of a 2-year old abandoned on the highway by his father with whom he was traveling. According to the mother, the toddler would make it easier for his father to get across the border – “‘they were going through like this with minors…”’
While Tennessee’s state legislators can’t do much about the first scenario, they do have the authority to address the situation (like the toddlers) where someone in Tennessee facilitates the smuggling of a child who will cross the border illegally as a UAC and eventually reunite with a family member or sponsor in the state.
During the General Assembly’s first Joint Study Committee on June 18, 2021, Rep. Ryan Williams (R- Cookeville), raised an important issue relative to the UAC arrivals in Tennessee. In fact, Tennessee’s GOP Congressional delegation should also pay attention to what Rep. Williams had to say.
Williams talked about his constituent who had travelled to another state to pick up his adoptive child. But before he was able to legally bring his child home to Tennessee, he needed Williams to help him get the paperwork required by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children corrected. This paperwork creates additional hurdles that must be satisfied before being able to legally bring a minor child across state lines and if not followed to the letter of the law, it can jeopardize the adoption.
BTW, Williams came through for this family.
So here’s the point – an illegal alien living in Tennessee can facilitate the smuggling of a child to the U.S. border without any penalty – federal or state. But a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant can be penalized if paperwork is faulty? The issue has nothing to do with whether there is a biological connection between the adoptive parent and the child or the smuggling facilitator and the child. It’s about complying with the law.
It’s important to note that smuggling is not the same as trafficking. Human smuggling is defined as:
“the importation of people into the United States involving deliberate evasion of immigration laws. This offense includes bringing illegal aliens into the United States as well as the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in the United States.”
Trafficking on the other hand, is about the exploitation of people using force, fraud or coercion for a sought after objective. It can include for example, sex trafficking, debt bondage and involuntary servitude.
Lt. Gov. McNally and Speaker Sexton are so concerned about Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) being ferried into Tennessee, that they authorized a joint legislative committee to look into the issue; presumably with some intent to determine legislative options in response.
The committee has already held one meeting and has another scheduled for July 13th providing a platform for Blackburn and Hagerty’s offices to wave their consultation bill around and yack about the importance of “transparency”.
Blackburn’s been in Congress long enough to know that bringing home a “transparency” bill with the laughable “consultation” provision which is legislator talk-speak for sounds good, doesn’t really do anything of consequence to address the problem at home. Shows you how little Hagerty understands that he just obediently tags along after Marsha.
And like Mark Green’s new UAC bill, Blackburn and Hagerty appear to be unwilling to take on the child smuggling problem. Green’s bill allows a child smuggled over the border to override the governor’s veto regarding UAC placements in Tennessee. And the “biological relative” in his bill can also be an illegal alien.
Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson), who is on the Joint Study Committee, has said he doesn’t want the Chattanooga facility to reopen or any other facility like it to open in Tennessee. Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), who is also on the Joint Committee, has made it clear that he wants more of these children brought to Tennessee so they can be reunited with “loved ones”. As it turns out, UAC smuggling is more often than not, financed by the parents who themselves are in the U.S. in violation of the immigration laws.
Only time will tell whether the Joint Study Committee is a pro forma or whether state legislators are serious about trying to address the problem. If instead they insist that “immigration is a federal issue” then remind them that 2022 is just around the corner and it looks like that four of the Senate members on the Joint Committee could potentially face a primary if necessary.