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.
This is how the United States is accepting migrants claiming #asylum - wait in Mexico for your number to be called. Babies, children and adults today at Casa del Migrantes shelter in Juarez. pic.twitter.com/0bj2LYJTUO— Anthony Terrell (@AnthonyNBCNews) December 15, 2018
"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.
At the Child-Friendly Spaces that @UNICEF and partners installed in the El Barretal shelter in #Tijuana, #migrant children can find a place where they can feel safe. @UNICEFMexico pic.twitter.com/C9RkINBiei— UNICEF USA (@UNICEFUSA) December 18, 2018
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."
Nearly 15,000 migrant children are now held in government custody, putting shelters near capacity.— NPR (@NPR) December 13, 2018
Officials are considering a range of options from releasing the children more quickly to building more tent cities. https://t.co/79uy31Hv1u
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.
A seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died "of dehydration and shock" after she illegally crossed into the United States with her father and was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.https://t.co/wTv5BNQRZ4— Axios (@axios) December 14, 2018
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.
Her name was Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin. She was 7-years-old and died in CBP custody of dehydration and exhaustion. News reports suggest she had to wait 90 minutes before receiving emergency medical care. We need answers and we need them now. pic.twitter.com/JVnIxiPN31— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 15, 2018
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."