“[B]ecause otherwise suitable sponsors are now targeted for arrest and deportation, children remain in detention for longer rather than being placed with family members,” the organizations said. “In addition, some children are traumatized by knowing that their desire to find a home has led to a family member’s detention—or, conversely, children may refuse to cooperate at all with authorities, leading to a longer stay in subpar detention facilities as well.”
CNN reported in late 2018 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had taken into custody at least 170 people who had stepped forward to potentially sponsor a migrant child. The majority of these sponsors had no criminal record, and advocates feared the sweeps would scare away other potential sponsors. Indeed, roadblocks like this set up by the previous administration resulted in the prolonged detention of some children, like at the prison camp in Tornillo, Texas.
In announcing the policy’s official termination, the Biden administration said it wanted to establish a clear line between agencies, NPR reported. “We are our child welfare agency,” a Biden administration official said according to the report. “We are not an immigration enforcement agency.” The NBC News report noted the official as saying the policy had a “chilling effect” on potential sponsors.
The Biden administration announced the policy’s termination as it takes a number of other urgent actions intended to get thousands of children safely out of unsuitable Customs and Border Protection facilities and to HHS for placement with sponsors. In another recent policy change, the administration also announced that it would be reinstating a program that allowed Central American children to join parents who are already in the U.S. and have lawful status.
When the previous administration terminated the Central American Minors program in 2017, nearly 3,000 children who had already been approved to rejoin parents in the U.S. were left stranded. Biden’s State Department said in its announcement reimplementing the program that the first phase of the rollout would focus on “eligible applications that were closed when the program was terminated in 2017, and the second will begin to accept new applications with updated guidance to follow.”
“Together with other efforts across the U.S. Government, reopening the CAM program is an important step toward expanding lawful pathways for humanitarian protection and opportunity in the United States,” the State Department said. “During the life of the program, we have reunified nearly 5,000 children safely and securely with their families. The program reflects our values as a nation and represents our continued commitment to ensure that our immigration system treats people with dignity and respect and protects the most vulnerable, especially children.”