Some 1,800 migrant children are still being held in tents in Tornillo, Texas, waiting for an average of 59 days in the custody of Health and Human Services. And according to new reporting from Vice News, more than 2,000 workers at Tornillo are not going through FBI fingerprint checks, even though they are federally mandated to do so. When asked by Vice News why these workers weren’t getting the checks, HHS and BCFS, the subcontracted nonprofit actually operating the tent detention center, ended up pointing fingers at each other:
HHS spokesman Weber said it was BCFS’ responsibility to ensure the fingerprinting was being done, and directed VICE News to the company. “It’s on the grantee to verify that the work’s been done,” he said.
But a BCFS spokesperson said the company and its contractors have long been unable to conduct fingerprint background checks on staff at Tornillo due to a technicality with how the company gets access to FBI databases.
Vice News reported that they talked to twenty “direct care” workers who interact with the children on a daily basis, and they all confirmed that they had not been fingerprinted. This is despite the fact that HHS detention centers housing immigrant children across the country are rife with abuse.
The failure around fingerprinting in the facility is particularly egregious in the face of the administration’s new policy around parents seeking custody of the children currently being detained. Previously, most parents didn’t have to go through fingerprint checks. Now, as reported earlier this year, everyone in a home where a child may be placed has to submit fingerprints to run through an FBI background check. These new requirements have only served as a way for the government to further arrest and track undocumented immigrants who come forward to claim their children.
As Leah Chavla, a policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told The Guardian about the new policy in September, “It’s devastating, because you have situations where parents aren’t going to come forward, and that child languishes in custody. It really is cruelty.”