A proposed rule could make it much harder for undocumented immigrant children who come to the United States to stay with their relatives.
Currently, when unaccompanied children arrive at the border—the bulk of whom flee violent, dangerous countries and look for asylum in the U.S.—they usually go into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS then tries to find parents or relatives who can care for them while their immigration proceedings move forward. Those people are called sponsors. And if HHS can’t find sponsors for the children, they stay in foster care or shelters.
Last week, however, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule that would have Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check the immigration status of sponsors looking to care for these children, as well as the immigration status of any other adults who live in the sponsors’ homes. The rule would have ICE get biometric data—potentially meaning fingerprints or retinal scans—of those individuals.
Because the relatives of undocumented children are sometimes themselves undocumented, immigrant rights advocates warn that the new rule could put some potential sponsors in fear of deportation, discouraging them from coming forward to take in unaccompanied children.
“The proposal has the potential to drastically expand ICE’s enforcement dragnet,” said Katie Shepherd of the American Immigration Council. “It may ultimately harm—not help—unaccompanied children whose sponsors and loved ones end up being targeted and detained by ICE due to the increased screening.”
Shepherd added that children may end up languishing in foster care or HHS shelters as a result of the rule change, at a much higher cost to U.S. taxpayers.
The rule, which was first reported on by PoliticoPro, can be implemented without congressional approval. Currently, DHS is hearing comments on the rule. The deadline for commenting is June 7.