December 18, 20184:22 PM ET
Updated at 4:59 pm ET
The Department of Health and Human Services is changing the ways it conducts background checks on sponsors of migrant children, a surprise move that will mean the release of hundreds of such children from controversial government-contracted shelters across the country.
The Trump administration had come under fire for holding nearly 15,000 migrant children in 137 shelters. The vast majority of the children are “unaccompanied alien children” who crossed the border without parents or legal guardians. The administration has been criticized for long delays in releasing them to live with sponsors while their asylum cases are pending in immigration court. In a turnabout, the government now agrees the vetting of sponsors — usually a parent or family member — was taking too long.
“The children should be home with their parents. The government makes lousy parents,” said Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary at Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, in an interview with NPR.