U.S. government accused of losing track of 85,000 migrant children

Whistleblowers assigned to process minors near the border reported that children were often placed with individuals who were clearly not their relatives, sometimes in situations where there was evidence of abuse and trafficking.

U.S. government accused of losing track of 85,000 migrant children
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is facing serious allegations of mishandling the placement of unaccompanied minors who crossed the U.S. border illegally.

According to multiple government whistleblowers who testified before a Senate panel on Tuesday, at least 85,000 children have been lost after being placed with "sponsors" who may be exploiting them for forced labor or prostitution, the Daily Wire reports.

Whistleblowers assigned to process minors near the border reported that children were often placed with individuals who were clearly not their relatives, sometimes in situations where there was evidence of abuse and trafficking. One whistleblower claimed that after alerting supervisors to these issues, she was removed from her position and faced retaliation from the Biden administration's HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested that the administration prioritized quickly moving children out of secure facilities to avoid comparisons to the previous administration's policies of "kids in cages." However, this approach may have compromised the children's safety. Whistleblowers reported that approximately 500,000 children were transported to homes of people who were sometimes strangers, with loosened rules on background checks.

The oversight process reportedly consisted of a single phone call to the children 30 days after placement. By this time, many children could not be reached and were considered missing.

Tara Lee Rodas, a 20-year federal government veteran, shared her experience working at the Pomona Fairplex Emergency Intake Site. She described several alarming cases, including a 16-year-old Guatemalan girl who was allegedly placed with a man falsely claiming to be her brother and subsequently exploited.

Other whistleblowers, including Deborah White, criticized the agency's lack of preparation to investigate red flags and its apparent disregard for potential harm to children. White stated, "Children were being trafficked with billions of taxpayer dollars by a contractor failing to vet sponsors and process children safely, with government officials complicit in it."

The whistleblowers also raised concerns about the qualifications of staff hired by contractors and the lack of training provided to identify human trafficking or fraud.

While HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has stated to Congress that no children have gone missing from HHS custody, whistleblowers argue that this claim is based on a technicality since once a child is released to a transportation company for delivery to a sponsor, they are no longer considered to be in HHS custody.

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