The Trump administration will arrest parents and others who hire smugglers to bring children into the U.S., in an effort to break up human-trafficking operations, reports the Associated Press. The new “surge initiative” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) marks the latest get-tough federal approach to immigration since President Trump took office. It is a sharp departure from policies under President Obama, when tens of thousands of young people crossed the border illegally. The children were placed with sponsors—typically parents, close relatives or family friends—who cared for the minors while their cases moved through the immigration court system.
The government said it plans to arrest the sponsors. “ICE aims to disrupt and dismantle end-to-end the illicit pathways used by transnational criminal organizations and human-smuggling facilitators,” spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez said. “The sponsors who have placed children directly into harm’s way by entrusting them to violent criminal organizations will be held accountable.” Immigrant advocacy groups are investigating a dozen arrests that may involve sponsors, including the arrest of an unaccompanied child’s brother in Texas, as well as other cases in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. “Arresting those who come forward to sponsor unaccompanied children during their immigration proceedings, often parents, is unimaginably cruel,” said Wendy Young of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit that has matched thousands of unaccompanied minors with attorneys. “Without caregivers to come forward, many of these children will languish in costly detention centers or be placed in foster care at great expense to states.”