Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in recent months have arrested more than 40 individuals who came forward to take in undocumented migrant children, CNN reported Thursday.
Matthew Albence, a top ICE official, testified before Congress on Tuesday stating that the agency arrested 41 potential sponsors between July and September, after the agency completed background checks and fingerprinted them in accordance with a memorandum signed by ICE and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
"We've arrested 41 individuals thus far that we've identified pursuant to that (memorandum),” Albence said in his testimony, according to CNN. “Close to 80% of the individuals that are either sponsors or household members of sponsors are here in the country illegally, and a large chunk of those are criminal aliens. So we are continuing to pursue those individuals."
The memorandum Albence referenced was signed amid agency concerns about children being placed in hazardous situations, according to CNN’s source, but critics have expressed concerns that the background checks could deter potential sponsors.
An ICE official confirmed to CNN that 70 percent of the arrests were made for immigration violations of being in the U.S. illegally, not because the sponsors were found to have committed a crime.
CNN's report comes at a time when the number of migrant children in federal custody has reached record-high levels. Yahoo News, citing federal data, reported Wednesday that more than 13,000 children are currently in federal custody.
The outlet's confirmation that ICE is pursuing potential sponsors supports claims made by immigration advocates, who have blamed the high numbers of children in federal custody on the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration.
The arrests also mark a departure from the Obama administration's practices. CNN notes that the Obama administration did not arrest undocumented immigrants who came forward as sponsors/
Critics have said Trump’s immigration policies are creating an environment of intimidation where potential sponsors are deterred from coming forward out of fear of being arrested, resulting in longer detentions for unaccompanied minors.