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News From Tides

President Signs Legislation Requiring Child Advocates for Unaccompanied Immigrant Children img-share-ph

December 24, 2008

December 23, 2008 - The Immigrant Child Advocacy Center, a project of the Tides Center, is delighted to announce that the legislation we’ve been working on for the last five years has been signed into law.  On December 23, 2008, the President signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act), which among other things, authorizes the government "to appoint independent child advocates for child trafficking victims and other vulnerable unaccompanied alien children."   A particularly exciting aspect of the TVPRA is Section 235, which creates special protections for "unaccompanied alien children" – the thousands of children who enter this country without the protection of a parent or legal guardian.   

This dramatic change in the law has been years in the making.  Although civil and criminal courts routinely appoint child advocates (or guardians ad litem) to identify and represent the best interests of minors—and although the U.S. "best interests" model was the benchmark around which the international Convention on the Rights of the Child was crafted—U.S. immigration courts do not recognize immigrant children as distinct from adults nor consider their "best interests" when deciding whether to grant protection or order the child deported.   

For five years, Chicago has been home to a unique program—the only one in the United States—in which child advocates are appointed to unaccompanied alien children detained in Chicago.  This program, the Immigrant Child Advocacy Center, a project of the Tides Center, advocates for child victims of trafficking, young survivors of persecution and torture, and unaccompanied immigrant children – children who are alone in the United States, separated from their parents or traditional caregivers. The Immigrant Child Advocacy Center served as a model for TVPRA Section 235, which is now part of United States law.   

The Immigrant Child Advocacy Center looks forward to implementing the new law which takes effect in 90 days.  Please join us in celebrating this progress. 

Maria Woltjen
Director, Immigrant Child Advocacy Center

[email protected]