If officials from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have their way, parents of suspected undocumented immigrant children may soon have to provide their fingerprints to regain custody of their child.
ICE officials are pushing for the implementation of new rules critics fear may lead to the unnecessary separation of law-abiding immigrant families. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been particularly vocal about the ICE’s plan. The HHS is the government tasked to find housing for immigrant children.
HHS Concerns over the Proposed Measure
As the ICE introduced its new immigration rules, officials from the HHS were quick to state they had no intentions of changing their existing fingerprinting policy.
In a statement to the media, Bobbie Gregg, deputy director for children’s services at HHS’s office of refugee resettlement, said, “One of our goals is to place children with an appropriate sponsor as promptly as we can safely do so. And so any delay for placing the child with their parent is time that we’re keeping a parent and child separated.”
Gregg and other reform advocates believe such a drastic measure would impede parent-children relationships, leaving parents scared over the possibility of fingerprints being used by the government to track down undocumented immigrants who are qualified for deportation.
David Leopold, a Cleveland-based lawyer and former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, fears the measure may encourage immigrant parents to stay away from their children amid fears of being detained themselves.
Changes to Protect Immigrant Children from Criminal Elements
A recent ICE memo distributed among agency officials outlines plans to expand fingerprinting from being currently restricted to non-parent, to also include all parents of involved immigrant children. By pushing for this expansion of the agency’s fingerprinting policy, ICE officials would effectively have the power to cross-reference fingerprints against the FBI’s criminal database to verify the identities of anyone, parents included, claiming custody over children. ICE officials also claim the measure would help prevent the occurrence of children being released to people with criminal histories.
According to U.S. law, the government, through the HHS, is required to provide housing to immigrant minors awaiting trial that will decide if they are eligible for removal back to their native countries. In the first six months of 2015, close to 28,000 immigrant and unaccompanied children were detained while crossing the United States border. This figure is equal to the record-high number of children in 2014.
As of press time, the White House has yet to issue a statement on the ICE’s planned policy changes, so it remains to be seen if the Obama administration would support such measures, especially at a time when immigration tensions are at an all time high due to a fast-approaching presidential election.
If you want to learn more about how the ICE’s proposal affects immigrant rights, talk to the immigration experts of Lyttle Law Firm! Call us today at (512) 215-5225.