On May 29, the Trump administration announced that it would soon start fingerprinting parents who attempt to claim custody of unaccompanied children detained for entering the U.S. illegally. However, immigrant advocates claim the move may cause undocumented adults in Arizona and elsewhere to abandon their children for fear of being deported.
Because U.S. laws limit the amount of time minors can be held in custody, immigration officials have historically released unaccompanied children to adult sponsors who live in the U.S. The sponsors are then expected to bring the children to court for their deportation hearings. However, a representative of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services told media outlets that the government now intends to fingerprint adult sponsors with the intention of performing thorough background checks. Critics of the policy say that it will stop some parents from picking up their children, leaving them to sit in detention centers. An HHS representative disagreed, saying that parents who are afraid to pick up their children don’t deserve to be sponsors.
According to a 2018 Government Accountability Office report, 60 percent of children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who crossed the border between January 2014 and April 2015 were picked up by a parent. The remaining children were released to family members, friends or unrelated sponsors.
Immigrants who wish to become a legal permanent resident of the United States may wish to contact an attorney familiar with U.S. immigration law. Legal counsel could help an immigrant apply for a green card and begin the naturalization process. An attorney may also inform immigrants of their legal options and represent their interests during immigration hearings. If an immigrant has been threatened with deportation, legal counsel could review the case and attempt to halt deportation proceedings.