Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been using dental scans to place minors into adult detention centers — and it is unlawful, according to a recent report by Reveal.
For more than 10 years, ICE has been a target of controversy for its use of dental and bone scans, which immigration lawyers call “pseudoscience.”
“Using radiographs of a person’s bones or teeth … cannot produce a specific age due to a range of factors affecting an individual’s growth,” the report states. “These include normal biological variation, as well as cultural and ethnic differences.”
In two cases, a University of Texas dentist, David R. Senn, examined the dental scans of two teenage asylum seekers to determine their ages, without ever seeing them face to face.
One of the teens, Billal I. Caroog, who fled from Somalia, was estimated to be between 17 and 23 years of age by Senn. After the dentist’s result, Caroog was forcefully taken away from his foster home in handcuffs and thrown into Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. He was released six months later after a federal judge, Marsha J. Pechman, stated his arrest violated federal laws. The judge said, under a 2009 trafficking laws, the Office of Refugee Resettlement must use “multiple forms of evidence” and should only rely on dental and bones scans as a “last resort.”
She also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to transfer Caroog out of the adult detention facility until he turns 18.
In another case in December, Senn examined dental scans for an Afghan youth whose father and brother were killed by terrorists. The teen, who has only been identified as H.S., has been determined to be 16.56 to 23.18 years of age. The difference between the two ages is seven years, more proof that dental scans are hardly concrete proof of a person’s age. Senn also states there is a 79.5 percent chance the youth may be over the age of 18.
A California immigration judge, Patrick O’Brien, disagreed, pointing out the teen’s birth certificate states otherwise. However, 10 days after the ruling, H.S. is still being held in an adult detention center, the Mesa Verde Detention Facility.
Even though ICE’s own handbook claims dental and bone scans should only be used as a “last resort” to estimate a person’s age, the agency is still relying on them. X-ray scan reports by Senn and other medical professionals have resulted in underage immigrants being sent to adult detention centers, which are very unsafe.
“This practice has led to the erroneous placement of children in facilities commingled with adults who may seek to prey upon young children,” the House Appropriations Committee said in its 2008 funding bill. “The Committee directs the Department to cease immediately its reliance on fallible forensic evidence as determinative of a child’s age, and provides no funding for this activity.”
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