Following reports that the Trump administration has been detaining immigrant family members who have stepped forward to sponsor migrant children who are under U.S. custody, a group of bipartisan House legislators are introducing a bill to block immigration officials from this unprecedented series of arrests.
The “Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018,” CNN reports, “would bar the government from using a sponsor's undocumented status as a reason to deny releasing a child to them, and it would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from using information provided by a potential child sponsor to arrest or deport an undocumented immigrant.”
Late last month, a top Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official said during a Senate hearing that in a sharp departure from the Obama administration, the agency had arrested 41 immigrants who wanted to sponsor migrant kids, the vast majority of them solely for being in the country without permission.
Immigrant rights advocates had repeatedly said that the administration’s increased vetting procedures—including partnering with ICE to fingerprint possible sponsors—would lead to this, and they were right. “Using detained kids as bait to arrest other immigrants is a new outrageous low,” said Pili Tobar of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice, “even by the standards of a Trump administration.”
A bill shouldn’t even be needed to address this, because the administration has the power to just continue the practice of not arresting immigrant relatives who step forward to house and care for a vulnerable child who fled to the U.S. for a chance to live. Instead, officials are making the decision to sweep them up for possible deportation, which in turn continues to leave more and more children to languish under U.S. custody.
Currently, the U.S. had a record number of migrant children jailed—nearly 13,000—in facilities across the nation, including a prison camp in the Texas desert, and hundreds of kids are getting shipped off there every week under the cover of darkness. Remember that the administration doesn’t have a record number of kids detained because of any surge at the border: it has a record number of kids detained because this administration is doing it on purpose.