WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Friday it will end a Trump-era policy that let U.S. border agents collect information about the immigration status of people who came forward to care for unaccompanied migrant children so it could potentially deport them.
The policy, which began in 2018, allowed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and deport those would-be caregivers who were in the country illegally. It meant that immigrant parents who came to the U.S. and then later sent for their children to cross the border faced possible deportation when they tried to pick up their children from Health and Human Services custody.
While the policy had been largely disabled through subsequent directives, Biden administration officials told reporters the message of officially rescinding the policy “will have a real impact in terms of people trusting us and coming forward.”
The officials told reporters that revoking the policy should encourage more parents to come forward and alleviate crowding at HHS facilities, which are at capacity as the number of unaccompanied migrant children has surged in recent months.
One administration official said the 2018 policy had a “chilling effect” on parents and sponsors who were worried about coming forward to claim their children, and added, “There will not be immigration consequences going forward.”
The official said that HHS had expanded its capacity by 200 beds in the last week, but that opening new facilities would take time, including a 15-day notification period for Congress. Another official said the administration has no plans to ask Congress for more funding to increase capacity for sheltering migrant children.
Julia Ainsley is a correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Geoff Bennett and Jacob Soboroff