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ICE arresting undocumented parents trying to get kids out of detention

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President Donald Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 170 undocumented parents or caretakers in the last 5 months who attempted to retrieve their children from government custody, ICE told INSIDER and the San Francisco Chronicle. Of those arrested, 109 people had no criminal record.

The revelation comes amid record high levels of detainment for undocumented children. In November, over 14,000 undocumented children were being kept in government custody, a first in the United States.

When migrant children arrive at the border unaccompanied, they are detained in government facilities before potentially being transferred to parents, caretakers, or sponsors. More migrant children have ended up in detention than ever, as immigration from Central America has spiked due to gang violence and economic crisis in the region.

Parents and caretakers have flocked to apply for their children’s release while they wait for asylum cases to be heard, but parents have encountered tightened screening mandated by the department of Health and Human Services following scandalous cases of abuse that occurred when less screening was required. Enhanced screening began in 2016 after the reported cases, but detention as a result of the screening was not reported until 2018.

Read more: Mollie Tibbetts’ death is being used to push debunked ideas about illegal immigration and violent crime

The heightened screenings began to include an immigration screening and background check in 2015, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It’s been reported by ProPublica that ICE enforcement following the screening shifted to a more proactive stance under the Trump administration.

While a federal judge ordered in June that children separated from parents at the border must be reunited, it’s unclear how this applies to reuniting children in custody with undocumented family members already in the US. INSIDER contacted the ACLU, who successfully challenged family separation earlier this year, but the did not immediately responded for comment.

In November, Sens. Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden announced legislation called the “Families Not Facilities Act” that sought to ban the practice of detaining potential caretakers of undocumented children based on their applications submitted to HHS. The bill came after it was initially reported in September that 41 people had been arrested by ICE in similar circumstances.

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