A bipartisan group of senators released findings that show the Trump administration could not track down nearly 1,500 immigrant children for more than 3 months. The new findings mark the second time this year that the administration has been forced to admit it hasn’t fully accounted for undocumented children that have been released from government custody.
The number of children that haven’t been accounted for by the Trump administration doesn’t mean they have all been lost. Something like a missed phone call from Health and Human Services (HHS) or not responding to a message can result in a child not being properly tracked. Another possibility is that some undocumented families want to avoid the government. However, the threat of traffickers ending up with some of these children is a real concern for immigrant rights activists.
HHS made follow-up calls o 11,254 immigrant children that were released from its custody. The agency couldn’t account for 1,488 of them. The findings also say that 25 of the children released ran away from the people they were placed with.
The majority of the undocumented children that can’t be accounted for came to the border by themselves. After these children are detained by border patrol, they are placed in the custody of HHS until they can be released to an adult.
HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, “As communicated to members of Congress multiple times, these children are not 'lost’. Their sponsors -- who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them -- simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made."
The group of senators that released the findings proposed legislation that would make the government responsible for detained immigrant children after they are released. Speaking about the bill, Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said, “This bill will ensure that we keep track of unaccompanied minors in our country, which will both help protect them from trafficking and abuse as well as help ensure they appear for their immigration court proceedings. These efforts are critical for safeguarding these children and upholding our immigration system. This isn't a partisan issue. The problems that exist today began during the previous administration and have continued under this one, and we have a responsibility to get it right.”
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