Thousands of migrant children could be released by Christmas due to policy change
Migrant children will now be able to legally reside in the country much quicker thanks to a dramatic policy change. While they stay here, their asylum cases will be determined.
Back in June, the Trump administration extended the time a child waited in its 137 shelters before going off to a sponsor. The process nearly doubled the 30-day average waiting period under Obama's term.
The situation brought serious backlash. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is removing a step for sponsors who want to care for the children.
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The National Public Radio reports that the department is getting rid of the requirement that sponsors go through an extensive vetting process. This obliged all adults in the household to be fingerprinted and background checked.
However, the assistant secretary at Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families Lynn Johnson says it has proven fruitless. They should be with their sponsor, who is usually a parent or relative.
"The children should be home with their parents. We're finding [the extra screening] is not adding anything to the protection or the safety of the children."
Moving forward, only immediate sponsors will be fingerprinted and their criminal background examined. The number of children housed in shelters is expected to go down significantly.
For example, in Tornillo, Texas, 1,300 children might be able to go to a home immediately. Johnson insisted on avoiding "additional harm by keeping kids in care longer than they need to when they have a thoroughly vetted parent waiting for them."
The system's overall capacity is 16,000. Children numbering 14,600 have been forced to squeeze into the 91-percent full shelters through the use of extra beds.
Evy Ramos who operates Tornillo's tent facility said:
“Anything that will safely expedite their release to family and loved ones is something we support."
Furthermore, family members are sometimes hesitant to be checked for fear of deportation. About 170 immigrants have already been arrested while trying to sponsor a child.
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is not too hopeful about the change. He said:
"Rather than prioritizing the well-being and safety of children, the Trump administration continues to use them as bait to round up and deport their family members."
Meanwhile, one immigrant child died due to shock and dehydration after border patrol arrested her last week.
The Guatemalan girl was only seven years old and accompanied by her father. She entered the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday.
The two were detained for eight hours when the girl began having seizures. She then waited about an hour and a half before medics gave her much-needed emergency care.
Some people are in an uproar and blaming the CPB for waiting so long to treat the girl. Others have pointed out that her father is responsible for what happened.
He and his daughter were with a group of more than 160 illegal immigrants who were passing from New Mexico. The area they crossed does not have medical personnel. The girl died in an El Paso children's hospital in Texas.
The Department of Homeland Security released this statement:
"Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child. Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child's life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child."