Thousands of illegal immigrant children have apparently vanished from the not-too-watchful eye of the federal government, a report from Axios found via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Approximately one in three phone calls made to the minors have gone unanswered following their release into the custody of family members or other sponsors, raising questions as to the government’s ability to monitor the well-being of minors previously under its protection.
Unlike single adults and some family units, the majority of unaccompanied minors cannot be deported under current policy. They are instead held for a short time in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is tasked with securing long-term shelter for the migrant children until their court case is heard. If no sponsors come forward, they can be placed in other shelters, group homes or foster care.
“This is very dismaying,” said Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and overseer of the unaccompanied minors program during the Obama administration. “If large numbers of children and sponsors aren’t being reached, that’s a very big gap in efforts to help them,” he said of the outlet’s findings.
The Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families made 14,600 calls to check in on kids released from government-run shelters, and of those calls 4,890 (33.5 percent) were not answered by either the child or their sponsor. The percentage of unsuccessful calls grew from 26% in January to 37% in May, according to the report.
During that period of months, more than 65,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally and set another all-time record for children crossing the border alone. That number is likely to increase thanks to the Biden regime’s ineffectual posture at the southern border.
HHS policy requires that a care provider place a follow-up call with a child and their sponsor 30 days after their release from custody. However, it was reported that HHS had discharged 32,000 minors between Jan. 20 and May 31, but made fewer than 15,000 follow-up calls.
According to the website of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the calls are made to “determine whether the child is still residing with the sponsor, is enrolled in or attending school, is aware of upcoming court dates, and is safe.”
“While we make every effort to voluntarily check on children after we unite them with parents or sponsors and offer certain post-unification services, we no longer have legal oversight once they leave our custody,” an HHS spokesman told the outlet.
To put that in perspective, recall that in 2018, the Trump administration was roundly criticized – for anything and everything, incidentally – for being unable to account for the whereabouts of around 1,500 children released from HHS shelters during a three-month period.
There were around 4,500 such minors as of the end of May who had been released under the Biden administration.
Investigations are already underway to determine if, and if so how many, migrant children have been unwittingly released into the hands of labor traffickers. Lawmakers have repeatedly warned the Biden administration about the dangers of a weakened border and the increased likelihood that unaccompanied minors will make the dangerous trek only to be victimized by drug smugglers, traffickers and other criminals.
This is not new. In 2014, during the Obama administration (unsurprisingly) migrant teens were released to traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm. The traffickers had presented themselves as family members of the children.
In both March and April, the number of kids discharged was twice as high as the number of check-in calls the following month, which indicates that half of the released kids might not have gotten a 30-day call, according to public agency data.
Axios made the FOIA request in May after the agency declined to share information about whether it had been conducting the 30-day calls.
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