When children are involved immigration process changes

EL PASO, Texas - ABC-7 is starting to hear from viewers concerned about the cost of dealing with more than 250 undocumented immigrants sent to El Paso.

Shelters across the Rio Grande Valley saw an overflow of immigrants from Central America and those migrants were sent to the Sun City.

One viewer wanted to know why these families, most of them with children, are not simply put on a plane and sent back to Central America?

"We're not just going to put them on a plane, have them get off and there's nobody there for them," El Paso Immigration Attorney Kathleen Walker said. "That's not what we do as a nation."

Walker says when the immigration process involves children, laws and regulations meant to prevent human trafficking kick in.

"There's the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Renewal Act in 2008 that was passed that creates this process that we follow on trying to make sure that children are evaluated when they appear at our ports of entry or when they're intradicted by Border Patrol on whether they've been abandoned, etc.," Walker said. "You can't assume that they are family members, and let's hope that they are, but unfortunately we have a terrible trafficking problem."

According to Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Homeland Security initiates removal proceedings. Individuals are served with a charging document called a notice to appear or NTA. That notice is filed with one of the EOIR's 59 courts.

The NTA orders an individual to appear before a judge and warns them of the consequences of failing to appear. Officials then docket and issue a notice of hearing to every individual served with an NTA. That individual may file a motion to change venue.

"Obviously the government is transporting them by plane to El Paso or by bus," Walker said, "but what's happening to them is they're paying their way to get to wherever they're going to go based on the travelling documents they will receive after being processed here."

Walker said she understands some may be concerned with the cost of the process.

"From my pocketbook I understand this visceral response of, 'Why am I paying for this?'" she said. "But from my heart and from who we are as a country, no, we're doing the right thing."

Walker said the process could take weeks or even months. On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate recommended to increase the Office of Refugee Resettlement budget by a billion dollars in fiscal year 2015, all to deal with the 300-percent increase in undocumented immigrants from Central America over the past couple of years.

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