Should FBI background checks be a requirement for caregivers working at migrant facilities? This question has become a lightning rod for controversy since the news broke that the Biden administration would be waiving a requirement for background checks at emergency facilities near the Mexican border that “hold thousands of immigrant teenagers,” per the Associated Press.
The Biden administration has waived the background check requirement for migrant facilities in part because of the number of undocumented immigrants flowing into the United States from Mexico. The AP article notes that many of the existing Border Patrol sites that hold immigrants are “overcrowded and unsuitable,” leading the President to establish a range of emergency facilities to meet the need. In March, the U.S. government activated eight new emergency facilities with more than 15,000 beds.
While these emergency facilities will expand the government’s existing system for temporarily housing immigrants, they are not held to the same standard as permanent Border Patrol facilities. While emergency facilities are funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), they are not subject to the same licensing process as permanent HHS facilities.
To accelerate the staffing of the facilities and utilize them sooner, the Biden administration has waived the background check protocols that are standard for any facility used to hold immigrant teens.
The executive branch has not waived background checks entirely: HHS has stated that all staff and volunteers providing “direct care” to children will still be required to “pass public record criminal background checks.” What the government is waiving for these emergency facilities is the HHS requirement of FBI background checks.
There are a few primary differences between public record criminal background checks and FBI background checks. Most crucially for the executive branch, FBI checks take longer to process. Public record checks can return quickly, reducing the time that it takes to vet a large-scale HHS facility. FBI checks utilize fingerprinting and search FBI databases that are not available to the public or private employers.
Fingerprinting is a key point of contention for critics of the President’s decision to waive FBI background checks. Fingerprint checks can find a person’s record even if they lie about their identity—public record checks are often name-based. Some critics worry that the decision could leave immigrant minors at risk among criminals, sex offenders, or individuals with histories of child abuse or neglect by permitting background checks to potentially overlook key pieces of background information.
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About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments