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Garbarino, McCaul, Higgins Introduce Legislation to Enhance Screenings for Sponsors Who Take Custody of Unaccompanied Minors Coming Across the Border

June 2, 2021

The bill established additional sponsor vetting requirements in an effort to prevent senseless gang violence in our communities

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY) announced that he has introduced a bill to improve screenings for sponsors of unaccompanied alien children (UACs). Rep Garbarino was joined by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) in introducing the legislation.

The bill, H.R. 3497 – The Protecting UACs Through Enhanced Sponsor Vetting Act of 2021, would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlements of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish additional procedures for making placement determinations for all unaccompanied alien children who are in Federal custody.

“For years, these children have slipped through the cracks of our immigration systemand, unfortunately, many have fallen prey to gang recruitment, creating a national security crisis throughout our communities,”said Rep. Garbarino.On Long Island, the violent gang, MS-13, has deployed a sinister recruitment scheme to target these children who are young, alone, and seeking a sense of belonging as they adjust to a new country. It’s despicable that MS-13 and other gangs would prey on vulnerable children to perpetuate their criminal operations. We must do everything we can to protect these children and our communities from gang violence by requiring more stringent vetting of sponsors and cutting gang recruitment schemes off at the knees.”

“As Migrant encounters continue to surge at the southwest border, we have seen increases in children at the border,” said Rep. McCaul. “If we are placing children with sponsors, we have a moral responsibility to ensure these children are placed with safe sponsors. This legislation bolsters our vetting system to ensure UACs aren’t subject to senseless violence and I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation.”

“Stronger vetting procedures are needed for the placement of unaccompanied alien children,” said Rep. Higgins. “Our legislation enhances screening requirements for criminal records and transnational cartel or gang affiliations. These changes will help ensure the safety of UACs, their sponsors, and communities across the United States where they are being placed.”

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is a transnational gang that has plagued Long Island communities for years with criminal activities including physical violence, domestic sex trafficking, and drug smuggling. Now, members of MS-13 and other gangs are exploiting the growing crisis at our southern border as an opportunity to gain access to this country and grow their numbers here in the United States. H.R. 3497 establishes additional sponsor vetting requirements for placement of UACs in federal custody to ensure sponsors can serve as suitable guardians to prevent children from falling victim to gang recruitment.  

These additional procedures for making placement determinations include:

  • Criminal records check for all sponsors;
  • Consultation with relevant law enforcement agencies about a prospective sponsor’s criminal activity;
  • Notification to state and local governments of the decision to place a UAC with a sponsor that lives within their jurisdiction; and
  • Intelligence sharing related to a UAC or prospective sponsor’s involvement in a transnational criminal organization.

This bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary for consideration.