Another change is being made to the methods the Trump Administration will use to determine who will be able to sponsor underage children who crossed the border alone. The change in policy comes with the intent to hurry the release of thousands of children presently in United States custody.
The change was announced to members of the president’s staff on Friday. The major component of the new policy is that the agency responsible for housing the children, the Department of Health and Human Services, will no longer be required to check the immigration records of individuals wanting to sponsor the children. An FBI check will still be required, however.
HHS began sending potential sponsors’ fingerprints to immigration officials in May 2018. The screening process was meant to identify potential sponsors with immigration arrests in their pasts or currently under a deportation order.
HHS sponsor, Evelyn Stauffer, says the process of coordinating the immigration checks with the work of the FBI proved extremely time-consuming. There was also a lack of pertinent information produced.
Stauffer says more than 13,000 children are presently being held by HHS. She says the average child released to a sponsor family in May had spent 48 days in custody. She explains the new policy will speed the process up by two to three days.
Children who are released to family members other than their parents seem to have it a little worse. In some cases, they have remained in custody for months before being released to grandparents, aunts, uncles, or adult siblings. The reason cited for this is more strict vetting requirements.
HHS will still share the fingerprints of sponsors with ICE and the background checks will be performed. What has changed is caseworkers for the migrant children no longer have to delay the process until they review the background checks.
The policy change is in response to an assertion by the HHS that it is running out of room to house the thousands of children that come over the southern border alone. More than 11,000 children, most of them from South America, arrived in May.
President Donald Trump has been on record saying the children unaccompanied by adults have found a loophole in the American immigration system. He says Mexico should do more to stop these migrants from using their country to illegally reach America.
The latest change in HHS policy is effective immediately. It is also the third time the vetting process has been relaxed.