The Biden administration is waiving its requirements of FBI fingerprint background checks of caregivers at its migrant facilities designed to hold children, raising concerns among child welfare experts, reports the Associated Press.
The administration waived vetting procedures designed to protect minors from harm in order to quickly fill staff needed at new border facilities.
The FBI background checks use criminal databases not accessible to the public and are able to detect name changes or false identities.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Friday that staff and volunteers “must pass public record criminal background checks.” These public record checks are much less thorough and require the subject to provide correct information.
The HHS says that the more intensive background checks are not needed because the staff will be monitored by federal employees who have already passed several FBI background checks.
Former President Donald Trump’s HHS implemented a similar policy back in 2018. The HHS’ inspector general warned against this, saying that the FBI background checks “provide a unique safeguard” over commercial background checks.
“While the various background checks could identify some past criminal convictions or sexual offenses, these checks were not as extensive as the FBI fingerprint background checks,” said the inspector general.
Laura Nodolf, a district attorney from Texas, where the HHS opened a facility this month, said that without the FBI checks, “we truly do not know who the individual is who is providing direct care.”
“That’s placing the children under care of HHS in the path, potentially, of a sex offender,” said Nodolf. “They are putting these children in a position of becoming potential victims.”
“Failure to check fingerprints of frontline facility staff exposes vulnerable migrant children to a significant danger of physical and sexual abuse,” said Dr. Amy Cohen, a child psychiatrist and the executive director of Every Last One, an immigration advocacy group.