How far are they going to go?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials confirmed their plans to initiate criminal prosecutions and deportation proceedings against immigrant parents and guardians who help bring their children to the United States through the use of smugglers or traffickers.

The goal is to disrupt smuggling networks that abuse these children by punishing the adults who may have arranged the trip. However, it’s unclear how DHS might assess whether a child’s guardian was party to the smuggling or was aware that their child was intending to migrate at all. Advocates for immigrant children are already observing new questions being asked during interviews with government officials including who made and paid for their travel arrangements.

When children arrive at the border without a parent, they are transferred to a shelter run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as deportation proceedings are initiated against them.

The child remains in custody until and unless there is an opportunity to safely release them into the care of a parent, family member, or other sponsor. For those children who do not have a family reunification option, foster care is explored.

No parent deserves to face harsh punishment for trying to protect their child. If ICE follows through on these prosecutions, the consequences could be dire with more children left in government custody at taxpayer expense.

The immigration status of the sponsor has never been a relevant factor; what matters most is the best interests of the child, which usually calls for reuniting with family.

Sadly, the consequences of this policy shift are going to be huge. If a parent or sponsor is undocumented and at risk of having their immigration status shared and en up deported or referred for prosecution on smuggling charges, they may avoid coming forward to care for these children, leaving them to suffer in shelters or be placed in foster care. The only deterrence the administration will likely accomplish is impeding parents and family members from coming forward to take custody of children in need of help.