According to a startling new report from Reveal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been using dental and bone scans to put immigrant minors into adult detention facilities.
As Reveal reports, a University of Texas dentist analyzed the dental scans of two teenagers seeking asylum in the United States in order to estimate their ages—a practice that has received congressional scrutiny, been decried as unreliable “pseudoscience” by an immigration lawyer, and is even considered a “last resort” in ICE’s own internal handbook. Still, immigration authorities relied on the dentist’s assessment of the scans to send the teens to adult detention facilities.
In both cases, the University of Texas dentist, David R. Senn, did not meet with the two young men or examine their teeth in person. In the case of one of the teens, Billal I. Caroog, who fled Somalia after his father’s murder, Senn estimated that Caroog was somewhere between the age of 17 and 23 years old in his report, which Reveal obtained. Caroog was then sent to an adult facility.
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U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman disagreed, ruling that the age determination process in Caroog’s case was unlawful. Her order notes that a 2009 trafficking victims law requires the Office of Refugee Resettlement to use “multiple forms of evidence” rather than relying exclusively on dental and bone scans.
“The procedures … here resulted in the exclusive use of dental radiographs to make an age determination,” states Pechman’s May 2016 order, which required Caroog to be released from an adult detention center near Seattle. The Department of Homeland Security was ordered to immediately transfer Caroog out of adult detention until he “reaches the age of 18 based on the birth date he reported to Department of Homeland Security officials at the time he applied for admission into the United States.”
In the case of the other immigrant, who came from Afghanistan—Reveal refers to him as H.S.—Senn writes that he may be anywhere between “16.56 to 23.18 years” old. Senn’s reports were done despite the fact that congressional committees in 2007 and 2008 told ICE to stop this practice with unaccompanied immigrant minors. ICE, however, appears to be doing it anyway.
In California, a judge ruled late last month that H.S.’s “consistent assertions” about being under 18 years old “outweigh the dental age test.” It has been 10 days since then, and H.S. remains in an adult detention facility in California, according to Reveal.
Read the full report at Reveal.