According to a recent Immigrations and Customs Enforcement report, the US government is unable to get a hold of 1 in 3 minors being placed somewhere across the U.S.
Migrant children have been checked in and placed in foster homes and care centers along the border, but are unable to be tracked by some of the sponsors. The care providers are unable to check in with them and the calls are going unanswered. While unsuccessful calls were only at 26% in January, they went up to 37% in May. While calls increased 9% over the first five months of the year, there’s no telling what the unanswered call percentage is for July.
Unlike migrant adults and families, unaccompanied children are not subject to deportation, They are placed in custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, who then arrange their long-term shelter until the given court date.
The HHS made 14,600 phone calls to check in with the migrant kids at the government-run facilities. Out of those calls, 4,890 were unanswered by either the child or their sponsor. The policy states that the provider must place a follow-up call with the child and their sponsor 30 days after custody release.
According to the HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, calls were made to determine whether or not a child is still residing with the sponsor, enrolled in school, or aware of upcoming court dates.
Bloomberg reports suggest that certain government agencies are investigating the possibility of whether or not unaccompanied teens were being released to drug smugglers, human traffickers, or even released to labor traffickers. They investigated the possibility of teenagers being sent to work in food processing plants in Alabama and Oregon. Back in 2014, investigators found that migrant teens had been released to traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm.
The surge of migrants crossing the border reached an all-time high in July, with 212,672 apprehensions. There has been a total of more than 1.1 million illegal crossings since the beginning of the year. And now, many are questioning the government’s ability to protect minors after they are released into the U.S. An HHS spokesperson even shared that they make “every effort” to voluntarily check on children, but that they no longer have “legal oversight” once they leave their custody. The spokesperson said that many sponsors don’t even want to be reached out to.
Mark Greenburg, who previously oversaw the unaccompanied minors program under former President Barack Obama, said the data was very “dismaying” and that there’s a large number of children and sponsors not being reached out to. The data also suggests that the problem of losing track of released children could be “compounded” in the months to come.
The Biden Administration is not adding to the problem, with the HHS placing fewer than 15,000 follow-up calls for the 32,000 discharged children and teens. The mainstream media, however, has continued to turn a blind eye to the problem. In 2018, they had criticized the Trump Administration for the whereabouts of around 1,500 children in a 3-month period. There have been more than 4,500 children in one month alone under the Biden Administration.
“Unaccompanied children are passing through our border with the help of strangers and members of cartels, putting these children at an increased risk of sexual abuse and human trafficking. This is completely unacceptable, and the Biden administration’s response has been severely lacking,” Sen. Thom Tillis said after sponsoring the End Child Trafficking Now Act.
The lack of phone calls wasn’t a mistake, it was intentional. And it’s clear that the lack of response means that people don’t want to be found and absorbed through the legal channels. But the Biden Administration knew that all along.