LIRS Commends HHS for Partial Reversal of Fingerprinting Policy, Urges Additional Measures to Protect Children & Families

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STATEMENT: LIRS Commends HHS for Partial Reversal of Fingerprinting Policy, Urges Additional Measures to Protect Children & Families

For Immediate Release:
December 21, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT:
Danielle Bernard
dbernard@lirs.org; 410-230-2888

BALTIMORE, MD—Earlier this week, it was announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will no longer require fingerprint collection from all adult household occupants living with potential sponsors of unaccompanied children. This is a welcome reversal to a more sensible policy which supports the safety and protection of children.

“We are relieved that children who have been waiting in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement will soon be reunited with family,” said Kay Bellor, Vice President for Programs at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). “However, we are concerned that the Memorandum of Agreement [MOA] still requires that fingerprinting data be actively shared with other federal agencies.”

As a major partner of the U.S. government in the operation of 30 fingerprinting sites around the U.S., LIRS has seen first-hand that the new policy is hurting those it was purported to protect—vulnerable children in government custody—by making potential family sponsors fearful of coming forward to care for these children.

As a result, mass shelters, like the tent shelter in Tornillo, have been approved to accommodate children as the number of children in custody has swelled to unprecedented levels.

“Policy should be guided, first and foremost, by concerns for child welfare,” Bellor continued. “We urge the Department of Homeland Security and HHS to rescind the MOA in recognition that it harms children and families at a great cost to the U.S. taxpayer.”

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. In 2018, LIRS was one of just two organizations called upon to aid the U.S. government in vital family reunification efforts. Through these efforts, LIRS offered support to nearly 450 children and families, providing immediate reception and respite services, arranging transportation to communities equipped to meet their needs, and providing referrals to community services, including legal and mental health providers. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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