“You are the worst foster parents in the world,” accused North Dakota Senator (D) Heidi Keitkamp during a testimony hearing before the Senate, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted having lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors after placing them with sponsors late last year.
Between October and December 2017, 7,635 children who crossed the border alone into the United States, were placed with sponsors throughout the country, reported Noticiero Telemundo, on April 27th, 2018.
From last October until the end of the year, officials from the HHS refugee office attempted to contact 7,635 children and their sponsors. A report from Steven Wagner, interim assistant secretary of the HHS Administration for Children and Families, reveals that the agency learned of the disappearance of hundreds of immigrant children after making calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from custody.
1,475 children could not be located.
Most of the children came from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, seeking refuge from drug cartels, gang violence, and domestic abuse.
From these calls, officials learned that:
6,075 children stayed with their sponsors
5 were deported
52 moved to live with someone else
1,475 children were missing
Agency officials could not determine their whereabouts.
The report on the “Oversight of HHS Efforts to Protect Unaccompanied Children from Human Trafficking,” revealed that the government does not have a method to follow up on the whereabouts of immigrant children who enter the country alone.
Pro-immigrant groups are extremely concerned.
Maria Sosa, an immigrant’s rights activist from the organization, Fiel, told Noticiero Univision that the government should take more responsibility to ensure that these children are in the right hands:
“We are waiting for an explanation from the government. We want to know, what happened to the children, and why did the government not follow up on their welfare? Many times the government does not visit the homes of the sponsors where they place the children. This hurts the children in many ways. Regarding the immigration process, the children would like to fix their immigration status but this depends on showing up for important immigration court dates. Many of the youths miss court dates because they live in the dark. They have no idea where they are or what they are supposed to do. How can they be responsible for knowing to go to court and when to show up? They entered as minors and so they cannot be made responsible for their own self-care.”
The William Wilberforce Act of 2008 states that immigrant children traveling alone cannot be deported immediately. Instead, children must be placed under the care of HHS while they are processed in immigration courts.
The report, part of Wagner’s testimony for the Senate, admitted that once the children are handed over to a sponsor, the custody of the Refugee Office with the minor ends, with a file remaining open for only 30 days.
A subcommittee on National Security of the Senate has been investigating the situation of minors after the discovery of a network of labor trafficking, in which eight Guatemalan adolescents were forced to work in egg farms in Marion County.
The office of refugees has been urged to correct the serious deficiencies with the system and design a step by step plan to monitor what happens to the children and to present a report on solutions as early as next week.
Sister Norma Pimentel from Catholic Charities is advocating on the children’s behalf. “We must protect these children who are so vulnerable and who can be taken and exploited.”
Activists in the pro-immigrant communities believe Trump’s government is responsible for losing the children after handing them over to sponsors and failing to follow-up. The risk is that they may have ended up in sex traffic rings, exploited, and forced into labor.
This lack of care, regard and humanitarian efforts to help these children goes against every value that the United States is supposed to stand for. As caravans of migrants head to the border in a desperate request for asylum what is to happen to the children? The families that have escaped persecution, pain, death, come to us for help, for refuge and compassion. What awaits them? A militarized border and possible traumatic separation of already suffering families, from their children. If this happens, where will these children go? To “sponsors?” How would they ever reunite with their parents? What would become of them? Placing them with sponsors and forgetting them after 30 days is irresponsible and shameful. Already missing, 1500 minors.
This is not right. This is not Us.
Categories: Child Detention, child migration, children in detention, Children's Rights, Family Separation, Foster Care, Immigration, Immigration Reform, Latin America, Politics, Prevent child migration, Stop Child Migration, unaccompanied minors, Uncategorized, Undocumented, USA, Zero Tolerance Policy