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ICE: Expand fingerprinting policy covering unaccompanied minors

Two years ago, an unprecedented number of young people made the long and dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S. entirely on their own in an attempt to escape the escalating violence and devastating poverty in their native countries.

While federal officials are still in the process of trying to find relatives or even housing for these unaccompanied minors as they await their immigration hearings, yet another wave of unaccompanied minors -- from places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- has reached the border. Indeed, nearly 28,000 children were taken into custody in the six-month period ending in March 2016.

Against this backdrop, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has introduced a new proposal calling for the fingerprints of anyone claiming to be the parent of any unaccompanied minor taken and scanned through an FBI database. The idea, say ICE officials, is to confirm the identities of parents and make certain that no children are released into the custody of a parent with a criminal record.

The current policy dictates that fingerprints are only taken for non-parents seeking custody, while those claiming to be parents of unaccompanied minors are only required to provide a copy of a birth certificate and, if this is not possible, submit to a DNA test.

For its part, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with placing the unaccompanied minors and vetting their parents, has indicated that it has no intention of introducing ICE's proposed fingerprinting policy. Indeed, it argued that such a policy would only serve to postpone familial reunions and serve as an infringement upon the parent-child relationship.   

HHS isn't the only one speaking out against the proposal.

Immigration advocates have indicated that ICE's proposed expansion of the fingerprinting protocol could actually discourage parents from seeking out their recently arrived children out of fear that it would secretly be used as a deportation tool.

It remains to be seen whether the proposal, which is still only preliminary, will gain the support of the Obama Administration or whether the HHS position will win the day.

Stay tuned for developments …

Those with questions about family immigration or other pressing matters should seriously consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer their questions and examine their unique scenario.  

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