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Sponsors of separated children can face obstacles

Those in Austin, Texas, and other southwestern cities are witnessing the impact of the current administration's "no tolerance" policy for undocumented immigrants crossing the border. Much of the headlines have focused on separating children from their families and placing them in temporary facilities.

Though some may see the separation as a temporary circumstance, it can be a lengthy process to place the children in the custody of family members or friends. First, parents are often detained after being separated and sometimes deported back to their nation of origin. Second, even if there are relatives residing in the U.S. to take custody of a child, the process of placing children with them may take months.

ICE will often perform a background check for potential sponsors before placing the children with the sponsor. This is true even if the potential sponsor is a relative. A background check can involve letters of recommendation, proof of employment and proof of income. Currently, ICE is requiring fingerprint identification of sponsors. ICE defends this policy as a defense against trafficking and permitting children to be placed in the custody of unsavory individuals. ICE is also now requiring sponsors to pay transportation costs for the child. This can amount to several hundred dollars for airfare.

The dilemma in this type of investigation is that many potential sponsors are themselves undocumented immigrants. Because the investigation can lead to the arrest and deportation of a sponsor, some are hesitant to apply. ICE records show that fewer people are willing to become sponsors in recent years. The result is that separated children may in temporary facilities on a more permanent basis.

Immigration law is complex when it comes to finding homes for undocumented children. On an individual level, those who seek to become a sponsor of a separated child may consider the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. Knowing how to streamline the application and cut through the red tape may mean that a separated child is placed in the home of a relative sooner than dealing with ICE directly.

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