US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to make sure sponsors of unaccompanied minors are properly vetted, according to ICE acting Press Secretary Bryan Cox, a move that could give ICE access to more information it could use in its immigration enforcement activities.
Congress has sought to limit ICE’s involvement in HHS’ care of migrant minors who enter the US without parents or guardians.
But Cox contends Congress’ prohibition applies only if the minor’s potential sponsor is accepted and that the agency is verifying identities of sponsors using biometrics to help protect children.
Cox told CNN if the sponsor is rejected, they are no longer protected by law, and adds that HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which administers the unaccompanied minor program, is already sharing rejected sponsor information with ICE.
The Washington Post, which first reported the story, said the White House, led by the President’s top immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, sought to embed a senior ICE official at the office, but that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar rejected the idea at a Thursday meeting.
Cox said more information sharing will lead to children spending less time in the office’s custody.
But Congress has tried to limit such arrangements so that sponsors are willing to come forward to help unaccompanied minors without fear of being targeted for enforcement.