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In a piece filed late yesterday, CNN’s Tal Kopan draws attention to the latest horrifying tactic employed by ICE under the Trump administration — using detained children as bait in order to arrest family members and others who come forward to care for these kids upon release from custody. The story adds more disturbing details to the unresolved family separation crisis; it comes at the same time new statistics show that ICE arrests of non-criminal immigrants continue to skyrocket.
According to Pili Tobar, Managing Director at America’s Voice, “Using detained kids as bait to arrest other immigrants is a new outrageous low, even by the standards of a Trump administration that has made indiscriminate cruelty towards immigrants its centerpiece.”
Below are key excerpts of Tal Kopan’s CNN story, “ICE arrested immigrants who came forward to take in undocumented children”:
Federal officers have arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants who came forward to take care of undocumented immigrant children in government custody, and the Trump administration is pledging to go after more.
The news will serve as confirmation of the worst fears of immigrants and their advocates: that a recent move by President Donald Trump’s administration to more fully vet people who come forward to care for undocumented immigrant children who are alone in the US has been a way for the administration to track down and arrest more undocumented immigrants.
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement senior official Matthew Albence testified to Congress that, after Health and Human Services and ICE signed a memorandum of agreement to background-check and fingerprint potential “sponsors” of immigrant children, ICE arrested 41 people who came forward.
In response to an inquiry from CNN, an ICE official confirmed that 70% of those arrests were for straightforward immigration violations — meaning they were arrested because ICE discovered they were here illegally.
The individuals could have been the children’s parents or family members, and they also could have merely been fellow members of the homes of adults who applied to care for the children as they fight for a legal right to stay in the US.
…ICE made those arrests from early July through early September; of those, only 12 were criminal arrests, according to an ICE official speaking on condition their name not be used. The remaining 29 were what are known as non-criminal or “administrative” arrests — as in immigration violations.
…It has long been true that undocumented children who arrive in the US by themselves will often seek to be placed with relatives who may also be living in the US illegally. The administration has described this process as a circumvention of law in order to exploit more lenient policies for children, even labeling it “smuggling” of children.
But the advocates who work with the children and the attorneys who represent them say many of these children are fleeing extremely dangerous situations in their home countries and have legitimate claims to stay in the US that could take years to pursue. Family and friends already in the US can provide stable homes for them as they pursue those avenues of legal status.
…HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement “has a hard enough job to do when they can be focused on being a family-serving organization charged with reuniting children with their family, and when that mission is compromised by making them collect information for the purposes of immigration enforcement, that runs contrary to their primary mission and it’s contrary to the best interests of children,” said Maria Cancian, a former HHS deputy assistant secretary and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A former Obama administration official worried the government’s new tactics could harm children in its custody.
“These are kids who fled some of the most violent countries in the world. Many have experienced trauma … rape, robbery, all kinds of exploitation,” said Bob Carey, who ran the HHS office overseeing child detention at the end of the Obama administration. “The question I would ask is, are measures legitimately enhancing the security situation?” added Carey, who’s now a leadership and government fellow with the Open Society Foundations. “The ultimate security is not releasing any child to a sponsor, because then nothing would happen to them. But how much harm are you causing by keeping kids in custody indefinitely in settings that were never designed for that?”