Trump administration will fingerprint child migrants’ parents
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said on Tuesday, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.
Currently, most parents are not required to be fingerprinted to get custody of their children.
U.S. laws and legal precedent limit the time juveniles can be detained, so those caught crossing the border alone are often released to adult sponsors in the United States. The children are then expected to show up to immigration court to fight their deportation cases.
“We’re going to more thoroughly vet sponsors,” said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families, in a telephone briefing with reporters. “With DHS’ cooperation we will conduct a fingerprint-based background check on every sponsor.”
HHS is ultimately responsible for finding housing for migrant children, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforces immigration policy. Under a new memorandum, DHS would help HHS fingerprint every individual claiming custody of a child, senior officials said.
A DHS official who declined to be named said they expect implementation in a few weeks.
Immigrant advocates said the new policy would discourage parents from claiming their children.
“This policy will undoubtedly make it more likely that qualified sponsors will hide in the shadows, leaving vulnerable young children to languish in immigration jail,” said Rich Leimsider, executive director of the Safe Passage Project, which represents immigrant children in New York, in an email to Reuters.
Wagner, during the briefing, dismissed such concerns.
“If somebody is unwilling to claim their child from custody because they’re concerned about their own immigration status, I think that de facto calls into question whether they’re an adequate sponsor and whether we should be releasing the child to that person,” Wagner said.
In March and April, more than 50,000 people were detained per month trying to cross the southwest border illegally, levels similar to those during the administration of Barack Obama, according to U.S. government figures. During those two months a total of about 8,400 unaccompanied minors were caught on the southwest border.
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