The Trump administration has been arresting dozens of undocumented individuals who offer to host immigrant children. And a significant number of those arrests were for immigration violations rather than criminal activity.
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Matthew Albence testified that as a result of a joint memo between ICE and Health and Human Services issued in June, officials were now carrying out background checks and fingerprinting of prospective sponsors of immigrant children.
Since the memo was issued, Albence said ICE had arrested 41 potential sponsors.
“Close to 80 percent of the individuals that are either sponsors or household members of sponsors are here in the country illegally, and a large chunk of those are criminal aliens,” Albence said. “So we are continuing to pursue those individuals."
A follow-up inquiry by CNN found that 70 percent of those arrests were for immigration violations. ICE told the network that just 12 of those 41 arrests were labelled “criminal arrests,” and the remaining 29 were deemed non-criminal or “administrative” arrests.
Read: This toddler got sick in ICE detention. Two months later she was dead.
The Trump administration said that the purpose of the memo was to close a loophole that incentivizes parents to send their children unaccompanied across the southern border, as well as to ensure the safety of those children when they’re placed with a family. But immigration and civil rights advocates have argued that it could have a chilling effect on the number of individuals willing to take in and care for immigrant children, meaning more children are left to languish in government-run shelters.
Critics also feared that the policy could have a chilling effect on family members’ willingness to come forward and claim their children, adding more chaos to the process of reuniting migrant parents with minors.
Cover: A child with a mask exits the CAYUGA Centers branch on June 22, 2018 in Harlem, New York. more than 239 migrant children who were separated from their parents and relatives at the U.S.-Mexico border are under Cayuga Centers care in New York. (Photo by Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)