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U.S. revamps screening of migrant children's sponsors

  • Article by: Amy Taxin
  • Associated Press
  • June 19, 2014 - 7:16 PM

– The federal government has resumed checking the fingerprints of people other than parents who step forward to care for migrant children detained at the border amid concern that skipping screenings could put children at risk.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, said the agency overseeing the shelter program for migrant youths has gone back to a previous policy of exempting only parents and legal guardians from having their fingerprints taken.

The number of unaccompanied Central American children apprehended at the border with Mexico has surged in recent weeks and could reach 90,000 this year. To speed children through shelters, officials had stopped running fingerprint checks against criminal databases for parents and other sponsors, immigrant advocates said.

Until last year, advocates said, officials had checked the fingerprints of all sponsors, including parents.

“Anytime you are reducing the requirements, that is a concern,” said Kimi Jackson of the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project. “There are people who will sponsor kids in order to use them for things that are not in their best interests.”

Immigrant advocates say rising gang violence has driven the children to leave their countries and trek across Mexico to reach the United States. Since May, the Obama administration has opened temporary shelters on military bases to care for the children until they can be reunited with a parent or close adult relative.

Most of the children are reunited with relatives, according to Wolfe’s agency, which on Thursday started a bilingual hot line for parents trying to find their children.

© 2014 Star Tribune