Many states and localities require teachers, cafeteria workers, and even volunteer sports coaches to be fingerprinted before working with children.
But such a policy for people — largely illegal immigrants — seeking custody of unaccompanied minors in the U.S. is currently a matter of debate among federal agencies, according to Reuters.
In recent years the U.S.-Mexico border has experienced a surge in unaccompanied minors, largely from Central America, entering the country illegally. Once in the U.S. the Obama administration has been placing the tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children with relatives and sponsors in the U.S., ostensibly to await immigration proceedings.
Reuters reports that the Department of Health and Human Services — the agency which places unaccompanied minors with relatives and sponsors in the U.S. — is pushing back against a proposal to fingerprint parents who claim custody of the migrant children, saying it could cause delays in family reunification.
“One of our goals is to place children with an appropriate sponsor as promptly as we can safely do so,” Bobbie Gregg, deputy director for children’s services at HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, told Reuters. “And so any delay for placing the child with their parent is time that we’re keeping a parent and child separated.”
Such a measure, activists argue according to Reuters, would also cause many parents to avoid the process, as many are themselves illegal immigrants. A recent Associated Press report indicated that HHS has placed 80 percent of the unaccompanied minors in the care of other illegal immigrants.
While HHS claims the fingerprinting proposal would cause delays, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who have called for such a process, argue fingerprinting will ensure that the parent is actually who they say they are and ensure that the minors are not placed with people who have criminal histories.
In January an AP investigation revealed that HHS had cut corners in placement procedures and placed unaccompanied minors in in homes where they were allegedly sexually assaulted, labor trafficked and neglected.
The AP’s news came on the heels of a whistleblower report, made public by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, that out of a sample of 29,000 sponsors with whom HHS placed unaccompanied minors 3,400 had criminal histories of homicide, child molestation, human trafficking and sexual assault.