The Biden administration currently doesn’t require caregivers of immigrant teenagers held at emergency network sites to undergo FBI fingerprint background checks. Alarmed child welfare experts say the waiver compromises the safety of thousands of immigrant children.
To get children out of overcrowded (and often unsuitable) Border Patrol sites quickly, President Joe Biden’s team has turned to convention centers, tent camps, and other huge facilities. These facilities are funded by US Health and Human Services (HHS) and operated by private contractors. These emergency sites, costing $775 per child per day, aren’t required to provide the same services as HHS facilities.
To staff these facilities quickly, the Biden administration has ruled out vetting procedures meant to protect minors from potential harm. Volunteers and staff caring for children directly at these new sites don’t have to undergo FBI fingerprint checks. These checks can overcome someone using a false identity or changing their name.
On March 26, HHS issued a statement saying direct care volunteers and staff “must pass public record criminal background checks.” The agency also said federal employees or others who have passed fingerprint-based background checks supervise those providing direct care. About this, HHS said, “In the Emergency Intake Sites, HHS is implementing the standards of care used for children in an emergency response setting.”
HHS opened an emergency site in Midland, Texas, in March 2021. Midland District Attorney Laura Nodolf stated, “we truly do not know who the individual is who is providing direct care,” without fingerprint checks. She added, “That’s placing the children under care of HHS in the path, potentially, of a sex offender. They are putting these children in a position of becoming potential victims.”
There are currently 18,000 children and teenagers in the custody of the Biden administration. The number has been rising almost daily over the last several weeks. President Biden continues to expel many families and most adults crossing the border. However, he refused to reinstate the expulsion of unaccompanied immigrant children.
Over 5,000 minors are in border custody, many in a South Texas tent facility with limited food, access to the outdoors, and space. However, Border Patrol is apprehending hundreds of more minors than HHS is releasing every day.