ORR Screening Requirements Continue to Delay Family Reunifications
NEW YORK – The Office of Refugee Resettlement today released an 8-year-old Honduran boy to his mother after weeks of delay resulting from new requirements that parents and adults in parents’ households submit to lengthy fingerprint screenings and background checks. The new requirements are significantly delaying the government's process of reuniting parents and children.
Today's release comes hours after the New York Civil Liberties Union informed the government it would seek an emergency court order if the boy were not released to his mother immediately.
“We are overjoyed that this family has reunited today despite this new and unlawful fingerprint policy, which was the only thing standing between this mother and her son,” said Paige Austin, NYCLU staff attorney. “The government began requiring parents and their household members to submit fingerprints so that they could send those prints to ICE in an effort to deport families. The policy has nothing to do with child safety and everything to do with preventing the release of immigrant children and breaking up their families.”
Eilyn Carbajal Pineda fled violence in her home country of Honduras two years ago and is seeking asylum in the United States. Her son came to the U.S. with other family members in June of this year and was placed in ORR custody as an unaccompanied minor. Ms. Carbajal Pineda, who has been living with her younger children near Kansas City, Missouri, immediately started the process of submitting documents, including fingerprints, required by ORR to release her child. More than six weeks later, she was still waiting for ORR to release her son because the fingerprint checks remained to be processed.
Fearful for her son’s wellbeing and safety, two weeks ago Ms. Pineda set out on a 45-hour journey by bus with her infant son and young daughter, arriving in New York City to be nearer to where her son was being held and to visit him at every available opportunity. Finally, under pressure from the NYCLU, the Office of Refugee Resettlement waived the requirement to wait for the fingerprints and released the child Friday afternoon.
In addition to Austin, NYCLU staff on the case include associate legal director Chris Dunn, staff attorneys Jordan Wells and Bobby Hodgson, legal fellow Scout Katovich, and investigator Paula Garcia-Salazar.